Difficult or Different

October 11, 2016

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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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Myriads of books have been written on the subject. Training systems are built around it. And yet the lament remains.

How do I deal with difficult people?

This is one of the top issues leaders face today.

The fact is, you can have a great product or service. You can have solid systems. But if you have a team that doesn’t work well together, it will affect your business.

And so it happens. A team is dysfunctional, and the leader begins to seek the cause. It often boils down to a “difficult person” issue. One person can change the dynamics of a team, for better or for worse.

Let’s say you are the CEO of an IT company. In terms of DISC profile assessments, it is likely your workforce is heavy on “C” and “S” wiring. These are the introverts – those gifted individuals who think deeply and are process oriented. To an IT company, they are gold.

Now let’s say you add an “I” wired sales manager into the mix. “I” wired individuals are fun-loving, spur-of-the-moment, highly extroverted people. They thrive on new ideas and new connections, and generally excel in the world of sales and marketing.

But, as they say, Houston is about to have a problem. The “shiny object syndrome” of the “I” wired manager has totally disrupted the quiet, orderly world of the introverts. Without proper preparation and transition, you now have an introvert rebellion on your hands. In bringing in a “different” personality, you have inadvertently created a whole team of “difficult” people.

The fact is, the “I” wired person is exactly what is needed in that position. And “C” and “S” wired individuals are great at quality and process. Put all those things together with a “D” wired leader to keep everything moving forward, and you have a winning formula.

“Different” does not have to mean “difficult.”

Here are three ways to convert a “difficult” team into a team of different individuals who work together well.

  1. Establish understanding – In working with our corporate clients, we begin at the individual level by assessing each person’s strengths, weaknesses, and ideal working environment. This gives each team member a better understanding of their strengths – and equally important, the weaknesses of which they need to be aware.
  2. Map Strengths – We often conduct a process called “Strengths Mapping” where we not only assess each individual on the team, but map each team member on a grid. This provides a holistic view of the team and serves as a tool for getting the right people in the right positions. A team member working in an area of weakness instead of strengths (for example, a “C”-wired person in a cold call position) may prove to be “difficult,” when a simple change to a different position may resolve the issue.
  3. Learn to Communicate – Effective communication, at its core, is about connecting. And connecting comes easily when you speak to someone in ways that resonate with them. We’ve all had those attempts at conversation that are polite but disconnected. But have you ever noticed what happens when you tap into a person’s point of interest? The same person who was distant a few seconds before now becomes animated and speaks with passion about that point of interest. This is the kind of communication that happens when team members respect and connect at a strengths-based level.


Yes, there certain people who, no matter what, just will be “difficult.” As a leader, you will have to remove them from the team in order to make it work. But decades of experience indicate that team problems are far more likely to be a case of “different” than “difficult.”


To learn more about strengths assessments for you and your team, click here.