We Are All Difficult - So Build a Heart to Take the High Road

Every leader, every day, deals with difficult people.  And yes, you as a leader are also at times difficult to deal with.  Let’s face it, we are all very complex creatures - we have egos, we have blind spots, and we do things that will inevitably annoy others.  For some, developing the heart to deal with complexity in ourselves and others is an energizing life journey.  For others, it is demotivating, accompanied by painful memories of remorse, self-doubt, and denial.  As a leader, you can build and condition your heart to take the high road in handling adversity in relationships.  I suggest three critical mindsets to take you to a higher order of thinking and acting.

Mindset One:  Integrate, don’t split.  Peter Drucker said the job of a manager is to, “identify the strengths of the people you lead and focus on these.”  Rarely is a person the complete embodiment of “jerkiness.”  If you think someone is completely messed up, that leads to arrogance and anger on your part, and you fail to see any short comings in yourself…it’s always the other person’s fault.  Cultivate the mindset of asking,  “What is the core strength of this individual?”  “How can I appreciate and leverage these strengths?” 

Integrate the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, into one whole view of a person.  For instance, I’ve done a great deal of work with entrepreneurs.  Many of them have been over confident, have high drives to be in control, appear wonderful when you first meet them, and as time goes by, they are fearful of sharing, want to remain in control, and lack insight into their own idealized views of who they are. In other words, they can be really hard to deal with.  If I focus on the negatives, I will make no progress in being of help.  If I focus on their positives, such as the willingness to take risk, a relentless drive to never say die, and a great ability to cast a positive vision that others want to follow, then I can bring awareness to the entrepreneurs of what they are missing in key situations.  If the leaders don’t know I appreciate their strengths, they will never trust me with their weaknesses. 

Mindset Two:  Don’t condemn differences in personality style —  affirm these differences.  As I  like to say in coaching situations, “Opposites attract, they just don’t always get along.”  A principle in human relations is that the greater the difference, the greater the probability the relationship will go sideways.  In fact, extreme opposites often find that their relationships become debilitating, both in marriage and in work.  For instance,  if you are a high control, direct, and high goal oriented individual dealing with a more impulsive “cat like” personality that loves independence, there is a high probability each of you will begin seeing the “negative” traits of the other.  At this point it’s easy to become judgmental and describe behaviors as “dysfunctional” and “counter productive”.  Learning to affirm your differences in style is critical.  Your relationships become what you can see in others and build up, not tear down.  I co-authored  an instrument called Your Style of Influence, which has helped countless teams understand vast differences in style.  The assessment often creates the “big  aha” - people see why they are fighting, and can then transform conflict into a productive exchange of complimentary strengths.  

The third mindset is the most critical and I will take it up in my next leadership post coming out early next week.  

Please - write your comments below if you want to add some color to what I’ve said here.  It’s always appreciated by me and by others.