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Become the Voice of Reason

How to have a positive impact regardless of your role

We’ve all heard the voices. And not just in our heads. At work the voices are all around us - in other cubicles, walking down the hall, and especially in meetings. Usually, the loudest voices seem to be negative:

Ø      Voice of Whining – “What were they thinking?  We can’t count on them.  It’s all their fault”

Ø      Voice of the Past - “We cant’ try that…we’ve always done it this way”.

Ø      Voice of Upset – “You are wrong.  I am right.  How can you be so stupid?”

None of these voices are positive. They make the team dysfunctional. They destroy trust. And they result I lower team/project performance.

Here’s how to turn that around and become the Voice of Reason on your project.

First, you don’t have to be the Project Leader to be the Voice of Reason. Anyone on the team can speak up and have a great impact on the team.

Second, you need to speak up at the appropriate time.

Third, you do need to have something constructive to say.

Zone of Control is a proven constructive concept that you can use to be Voice of Reason on your team.

In our project lives we encounter four different kinds of issues. Some we can impact some we can’t. The question is where do we spend our energy?

Zone 1- Control: These are things that the project team cares about and has  direct control over.

Zone 2 – Influence: Items in this category are things that the team cares about but can only influence.

Zone 3 – Care About: Obviously these are things we care about but can’t do anything about.

Zone 4 – Everything else

Where’s the problem?

The problem is with Zone 3 items. The team wastes precious time and energy whining, moaning and groaning about things they can do nothing about. We’ve all seen it happen. It is very dis-empowering and non-productive. Worse, this negative feeling spreads through the project. Morale sinks. People get very testy. Team progress stalls.

Here’s an example:  

In the meeting we find out that we are getting a new CIO, and the one that’s leaving has only been here eight months. The whole group whines and moans and groans. “How could she leave when we’ve just stared to implement all her process changes? The new person will have all new ideas and we’ll have to do all this over again. Why did management let this happen?”

You can tell that the team is in zone 3 because youi hear the words they, them and blame words.

Here’s your chance to be the Voice of Reason.

You speak up and say, ”Let’s look at this in light of Zones of Control. Is it in Zone 1? No, we can’t control it. Is it in Zone 2? No, we can’t have any influence on it. Is it in Zone 3? Yes, we really care about getting a good person. And since we can’t control or influence Zone 3 things, We must accept them as something we have to live with and get on with the project.  What’s the next item on the agenda?”


Zone of Control is a powerful tool to focus team energy on the empowering tasks that brings project success.

Zones 1 and 2 items need to be rolled into the work breakdown structure, with resources and schedule assigned.

Focusing on the empowering Zones 1 and 2 bring positive energy to the entire project and helps move the project forward.

Dick Cochran is a Senior Facilitator for Tough Teams.  He teaches these concepts and more in the course Creating High Performance Project Teams and in the course Thriving on Conflict.

 Copyright © 2007, Dick Cochran