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The most common way of dealing with difficulty is to ignore it. At least, this is what audience members have told me repeatedly over the last few years of teaching Make Difficult People Disappear™. Now in truth, some do confront them and some turn into bullies when trying to deal with them, but the bottom line is the most effective leaders who have the best results, don’t ignore problem employees…even if they’re not on their own team! There are reasons for this and five of them are in this Monday Moment. Review these reasons. Apply them to your own leadership and see if there are areas in which you could become a better leader and maybe even Make Difficult People Disappear™!
1. A Leader’s Energy is Better Spent in Leading
Ignoring an issue that inhibits results or gets in the way of performance is not leadership, it’s avoidance. Besides ignoring an issue takes more time to keep track of it and push it out of one’s mind than simply dealing with it directly.
2. Effective Leaders Don’t Have Time to Keep Score
Leaders track numbers, performance, quotas, man hours, workforce balance, budgets, and a host of other numerical and even less linear metrics. What they don’t have time for is keeping score on who ticked them off or was difficult and has yet to be dealt with or put off until later. They coach for improvement right then, right there.
3. Pummeling Employees with Stored Up Issues Creates Damage Control
Imagine a squirrel gathering up nuts for the winter and stuffing them in his mouth. (okay, so I like squirrels, but go with me here!) If you were to smack your hands on both sides of the stuffed mouthed squirrel, you would get pelleted with nuts stored up for the winter. A similar scenario occurs when you stuff, stuff and store up issues “for the winter”. Eventually they are all coming out and telling them all at once makes an employee very defensive.
4. Most Employee Memories are Short
Unless the employee’s difficulty is repeated and egregious or caused them to suffer significant consequences for their actions before you got to talk with them, chances are they have forgotten what they did that you deemed difficult. Address it now or they’ll not learn anything from the time you took to remind them of what they did.
5. Leaders Know How to Be Assertive
Aggressive is like being a bully. Passive is like being a doormat. Assertive leaders simply speak their mind without imposing on the rights of another. As the leader you may make requests and you may set boundaries, but you may not impose on their right as person to recover from a mistake or bad behavior choice. If they don’t like the boundaries you set, they may also always make the choice to leave, but you have to give them all the information to be able to make that choice and that includes telling them what they did that made them difficult.
Becoming a better leader may mean stepping outside of your comfort zone, but that’s where the magic happens and that is where most leadership development lives. Those who hide in the shadows of comfort continue to deal with and complain about difficult people and employees, taking no personal responsibility to resolve the issue. As a leader, their behavior IS your issue and your responsibility.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!
Great article, Monica! The only thing that disappears when we ignore it is our good health. Problems do not just go away when we ignore them … they multiply and become overwhelming. Sooner or later, as point 3 states, they will explode and that explosion can damage relationships to a point that may be beyond repair. It is far more better to deal with the problem immediately.