Dealing with Difficult People

September 29, 2015

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I'm Deb- CEO, worldwide executive coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. I'm here to help you take your leadership and impact to the next level!

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There is one particular challenge that every leader, sooner or later, must face. It is the challenge of dealing with difficult people.

The problem is people don’t come with instruction manuals.

There is a reason for that. Each person is a unique blend of personality, talents, skills, training, and experience – more than could possibly be quantified in one volume.

There are, however, some tools that help a leader deal with difficult people.

One of those tools is a strengths reportThis tool helps determine an individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and ideal working environment. A wise leader will make it a point to know his or her people well, and seek opportunities to help them grow and develop. This means helping them progress along a career path that allows them work in their strengths and providing training opportunities to grow in an area where they can naturally excel. Natural strengths plus targeted training is a win-win for both the employer and the employee.

Another win-win for both is when a leader knows his or her people well enough to help them grow through a difficult situation because often a difficult person is just a person going through a difficult situation.

Here are some ways you, as a leader, can deal with the difficulty.

  1. Determine the real issue.
    Often, what a person says is the issue is just the surface. As my friend Ed DeCosta advises, keep asking, “What’s the problem?” until you get to the actual root of the problem.
  2. Attack the issue and not the person.
    Once you know the root of the problem, attack it together. Many make the mistake of attacking the person, so to speak, instead of working together to attack the problem. One will tear apart a family or a team, and one will pull them together.
  3. Determine that you, as the leader, will guide the course of the conversation and action.
    There are times when an employee needs to vent. Allow them to vent to you or they will vent to co-workers, which only creates a bigger issue for you. Once they are done venting, help guide the conversation in a more positive, solution-driven direction.
  4. Respect the difficult person.
    Respecting a difficult person is a definite challenge because your natural inclination is to do nothing of the sort. Realize that a difficult person may see things from a different perspective than you, and be open to the idea that the added perspective may be needed. Discuss the different perspectives, but do it with respect for the individual. Where their actions warrant disciplinary action, administer the action swiftly and with respect.
  5. If you have done your best, and the individual refuses to do their part, then it may be time to respectfully part ways.
    There are times when you as a leader must make the difficult decision to cut off one relationship in order to save the team or a company. If you have provided opportunities for resolution – if you have truly done your part – and there is no change, then it may be time to take action and move on.

For help in dealing with a challenging team or individual issue, visit StrengthLeader.com for valuable resources.