Does one bad apple really ruin the bunch?

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Updated Mar 8, 2021

Shutterstock 1295890855You’ve heard the old saying “one bad apple ruins the bunch,” but have you ever stopped to consider how that saying applies to your landscaping company?

In a webinar hosted by Jeff McManus, creator of the Jeff McManus Leadership Academy and director of landscape services, Ole Miss golf course and airport operations at the University of Mississippi, he discussed what it really means to have a “bad apple” in your bunch and what you as a leader can do to try and weed out those rotting fruits and bring health back into your team.

When trying to determine if your team has any bad apples on it, McManus says the first step is to ask yourself how important is it to you that your team has a good attitude? Along with asking yourself that question, also take time to ask about your own attitude. Is the reason your team members have poor attitudes because they see their leader has one?

What it boils down to, McManus says, is your attitude as a leader. When the attitude of the leader is off, the whole team begins to go south.

“For years, I whined and complained about the attitude of my team, but it wasn’t until I changed that my team began to change,” says McManus. “Attitude determines so much of our success, and attitude is everything. As leaders, this is important for us because it’s really hard for us to start pointing the finger at everybody else before we’ve looked at ourselves. We wouldn’t do our groups justice if we don’t first examine our own lives.”

Another question McManus says to ask yourself is whether or not you would rather work with someone who’s an experienced worker but has a poor attitude or someone who inexperienced but has an amazing attitude and is willing to be coached?

In his experience, McManus says the overwhelming response he receives when asking this question is that landscape company owners would be more inclined to hire the teachable person with a good attitude, as he/she would be willing to learn.

So, if you see there are attitude problems within your team, what can you as a leader do to solve them? According to McManus, the secret to a successful attitude is positivity.

“Even when you have that tough situation or person at work, being positive keeps your attitude better,” says McManus. “That doesn’t mean you don’t hold them accountable, but it means you keep it positive. You want that team member to be very successful. If that team member is very successful, guess who else is going to be successful? You are.”

Contrary to what McManus says, you might still be thinking that your attitude doesn’t always have to be sunshine and rainbows for your crews to still get their jobs done, and while this might be technically correct, it also could be detrimental to your company.

McManus says there are five major things that can be affected by a leader’s attitude.

The first thing McManus says is that having a bad attitude can make or break your leadership ability. In his experience, McManus says people don’t want to follow a “negative Nelly,” which means that the success of your landscaping company could hang in the balance because of your poor attitude.

Secondly, McManus reminds leaders that leadership has less to do with your position and more to do with your disposition.

“If you find yourself having to say, ‘I am the boss,’ then that’s a challenge because you are having to remind people who you are,” he says.

Third, McManus says your attitude determines your influence on others. This is important, he adds, because leaders rely on teammates to fulfill tasks and carry out their roles in the company.

McManus says you want to have a positive influence on your teammates to ensure they are actively engaged in the daily goings-on of the company, as well as being invested in the well-being of the company.

Fourth, McManus says your attitude determines how people feel about you and work, which impacts their motivation on the job.

“One of the number one things that affects the way people feel about their job is how their relationship is with their direct boss,” McManus says. “If people enjoy working with you, they are much more motivated. People need to know you’re positive about things, looking for solutions and helping them get where they want to go in their career.”

Finally, McManus says your attitude sets the tone for how others will respond in your area. When things go badly, McManus challenges leaders to look at the way they handled the situation. If it was handled badly, McManus says it comes down to your attitude because how you react sets the standard for how others can also react.

“If we want to meet our full potential, we must work with others,” says McManus. “Not everyone is going to do it the way we want to. Not everyone is going to respond the same way or see it the same way as we are. We’ve got to be approachable, positive and looking for ways to build collaboration with others.”

One rotten apple, McManus says, can put in seeds of distrust, negativity and apathy with the other staff members, remove initiative in a company, affect the customer and cause high turnover.

To combat this, McManus says to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your attitude help or hinder your landscaping company?
  • Do people seek to avoid you or be near you?
  • Do you always have a need to express yourself and tell everyone everything about you? Do you have to justify everything?
  • Have you made a choice to have a winning attitude?

“If nobody wants to be around you and people constantly ask for you to be moved to another team, you’re probably injuring the team,” says McManus. “But if people want to be around you and want you involved in everything, you probably have a helping attitude.”

If you, indeed, see that your attitude isn’t the issue but instead is a team member, one way McManus says you can actively try to avoid future bad apples is during the hiring process. While it’s not a guarantee you’ll be able to see the full extent of a person’s attitude in an interview, there could be small hints you pick up on that could signify a potential bad apple.

“You attract who you are,” says McManus. “During the interview process, ask yourself what you’re looking for and then try to work that into your interview processes. Take the initiative to make the changes, go after quality hires and see how the best companies are getting their employees.”

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