Aug 3, 2019 • 21M

LA 080: Leading Difficult People

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Dr John Kenworthy
Helping marketplace leaders #UnStuck their true potential to thrive in life and leadership to build a successful, sustainable business with collaborative, high performance teams and Joy@Work with practical, neuroscience-based AdvantEdge Guides and coaching.
Episode details

Encourage We've all had to deal with them. Perhaps you still are dealing with them? Difficult People. They come in all shapes and sizes. All races, all genders, and all backgrounds. They only share two things in common, but I'll come back to that in a little while. As a professional executive coach I occasionally get asked by organisation leaders if I can help them "fix" one of their more "difficult" or "problematic" team members. They see potential in this person but there's a problem in their style or approach that needs developing. Some of them are like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live: Always ready with a depressing take on everything being discussed. Some people only seem to be happy when they're unhappy and bringing everyone else down with them to the pit of despair. Other jerks seem to get a kick out of creating problems for everyone else and pushing people's buttons. Needling away on their pet topic and with a keen eye for any signs of weakness in others. Then we have the bullies. Instead of pushing people's metaphorical buttons, they seem to get off on literally pushing people around, shouting the loudest, forcing others to do things they don't want to and worse. At least with the downers, the jerks and the bullies everyone knows who they are. But some of the most difficult people to lead are the timid and frightened. They can be so fearful of confrontation and conflict that they hide and disappear just when you need them. Or perhaps you have someone on your team who is so disorganised and yet desperate to succeed and never seems to make any headway? And then we have the cynics and scoffers who undermine everything with their often sarcastic wit and pointed barbs. Or perhaps your most difficult person is the gossip who spread rumours, half-truths and juicy tid-bits in hushed tones over "team lunches" turning everyone against you whilst to your face, oh they're as sweet as honey and in front of the boss... well you have to admire their front and acting skills. Yes, they come in all shapes and sizes, races, genders and from all backgrounds and they share two things in common: The first important thing they all have in common is that they are all "people". We are dealing here with human beings. And we know from neuroscience that human beings share very much more in common in what drives them and causes these behaviours. The second thing they have in common is you. If you're reading or listening to this, then you have one or more people in your life whom you find difficult, and you want to know how to lead them or simply deal with them. It's OK, you are in the right place. Before we head into the "how", we need a few moments to understand what is happening with these people. And for that we'll be turning to a little neuroscience. Develop I recently read a terrific book by Christine Comaford: ""Power Your Tribe". She also writes for Forbes and has built on Abram Maslow's hierarchy of needs showing the neurological drivers all humans share. And it's primal. Your brain knows two states that matter: Dead and not-dead. Your brain's primary job is to keep you in the "not dead" state. And you really don't care about leading difficult people when you are "dead". To keep you in the "not dead" state, your brain guides your body to satisfy your physiological needs first and foremost. You have to eat, drink, find shelter, and stay warm (or cool). If any of that is threatened by anyone or anything, your brain will guide you to protect it before "not dead" becomes "dead". Now that you are in the "not dead" state we have three more primal drivers of our behaviours: Safety, Belonging and Mattering. Only when these three are also satisfied to our brain's content do we consider "self-actualization" and doing things beyond the norm for ourselves. And we crave these three things: Safety, Belonging and Mattering. Some people may crave more of one than the others, but we all crave all thre