leadership incorporated blog

April 26, 2010

Inspired To Succeed: with dysfunctional people

What kind of dysfunctional people are you dealing with?

I’m hearing a lot lately about challenges working with clients, co-workers and particularly management who:


Can’t communicate


Are clueless

Never shut up

Don’t listen

Worry incessantly

Are paralyzed by fear

Have a hidden agenda

Lack an attention span

Are in-denial

Make stupid decisions

Say one thing and do another

Build obstacles

Plant road mines

They take us by surprise, catch us off guard every time.

They make us mad

Throw us off-center

Trigger our self-doubt and insecurity

They confound us

They turn us into people we don’t want to be. And get in the way of doing business.


Wrong. Actually THEY don’t do any of this. WE do it to ourselves in their presence. And we can change that.

But if we’re not mindful, we can find ourselves doing exactly the thing we hate that they do.

They don’t listen and we find ourselves jumping in and not listening.

They scream and we end up yelling back.

They lie to us and we lie back to them and to others.

We become the thing we despise and don’t even notice it.

Here are 7 ways for leaders to be effective with dysfunctional people in business:

1. See how predictable they are. Plan for how you will respond — not react — when they do what they do.

2. Prioritize. Know what’s most important to you and what doesn’t matter. Pick your battles. Be intentional.

3. Take responsibility for your own pace. Choose not to get caught up in their energy.

4. Listen deeply to them. Listen for what’s underneath what they say or do.

5. Check your assumptions. Ask them “is this what you’re concerned about?”

6. Be honest with yourself.

7. Tell them the truth — without emotion and ask permission first. “Can I give you my honest perspective?” When they say yes (and they almost always will) tell them how you see the consequences of their behavior. “When you talk over me, you’re missing some important information.” OR “When you scream, it makes it harder for me to hear what you are trying to tell me.” OR “When you direct us to do X, it appears counterproductive to Y.”

Give them the space to process the information and be as patient with them as you’d want them to be with you in tackling your area of dysfunction 😉

Have an inspired week and feel free to let me know how it goes…

April 19, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Postponing a difficult conversation?

Ever had to give an employee a negative performance review? Or tell a direct report  you’re letting them go? Have to tell a boss that his way of doing business is causing problems? Need to confront a friend about asking too much without giving back? Been on the receiving end of a confrontation?

I’m hearing from a lot of leaders this week about difficult conversations they’re having…or not having. After all, most of us, when confronted with a difficult conversation procrastinate, hoping the situation will fix itself or that someone else will deal with it. Meanwhile, we get angrier and more frustrated while our opponent gets more and more set in their ways.

Then we tell ourselves stories about what we know will happen if we do face the person, until the conversation attains epic proportions in our minds. And we become even more paralyzed.

Of course, sometimes situations do resolve themselves, and we, of course, do want to give people a chance to address challenges on their own. However, if acute situations don’t resolve themselves immediately , they quickly become chronic and often worsen. The ripple effect of an intolerable situation intensifies until you have a crisis on your hands.

How are your difficult conversation skills? Can you navigate difficult conversations gracefully while creating the most positive possible outcome?

There are the obvious things to remember: prepare, know your purpose and intended outcome, don’t have a difficult conversation in an emotional moment,  know the law if you represent the company, etc., etc.

Here are 5 useful less-obvious perspectives for difficult conversations:

1.    Develop an attitude of service. Regardless of the topic, be there to help the other person. Do not make the conversation all about you. Don’t expect or need to be taken care of or for the other person to see the situation your way

2.    Check your assumptions. Some people want to be let go. Sometimes the person does not intend for their words to be interpreted as you heard them. Some people want to be confronted. Be as curious and open-minded as possible.

3.    Find a positive mindset. Do whatever internal work you need, to go into the conversation very clear that this conversation will address a situation that needs resolving and that this is what is best for all in the long run. Look forward to achieving resolution and it will be more likely to go well. If you dread the conversation, it will be more likely to be dreadful.

4.    Set your own pace. You control what you say and when you say it. Resist the urge to jump in defensively or let the other person’s pace determine your own.

5.    Listen. Say what needs saying and then shut up. Listen to the other person. Listen for what’s not being said as well as for what is. Reflect what you hear and engage the other person in finding their own solutions.

Remember that it’s better to have a conversation when the degree of difficulty is at 3 than to wait until it hits 8. 9 or 10. And if you have the conversation early there are often more options available than later when your hand is forced.

Hope this is helpful. Feel free to let me know how it goes…

April 12, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Every Leader Needs a Metaphor

My dear friend Lee (and her amazing family) are fighting lymphoma. Yesterday, her husband Jay sent an update to friends and family and shared with us the metaphor that they have chosen to help them get through this battle.

Turns out both of their families had prize fighters in their history and they are choosing to experience this challenge as a championship fight. As Jay puts it: “It honors our roots, brings us strength and it speaks in the kind of feisty language that we love…and our enemy, the cancer, deserves.”

Reframing their journey in the nuances of fighting imagery is helping them to process, prepare and do what’s necessary with grace, hope and clarity.

This image is bringing them all together with a shared vision of the entirety of where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re going.

Understanding the particular challenges of the middle rounds of a fight (where they see themselves now) is giving them a strategy for approaching the middle rounds of chemo: “save yourself, slow down to make sure you have what it takes in the championship rounds”

There’s a great leadership lesson for all of us in what they are doing.

Want to get yourself, your organization, your team, your family over, around under or through the brick walls that are blocking you? Whether you’re trying to turn your business around, find a job in this economy, overcome financial, health or relationship challenges, get some powerful metaphoric imagery that brings people together, gives you a new framework for seeing your situation, new ways to approach it, and creates the courage and strength to persevere.


  1. Make a list of words that describe your situation. Use words from the perspective of the challenge itself, also words that depict what is required of you and others. Add some words that reflect the outcome you want. Use action words and feeling words. Don’t hold back or edit!
  2. Walk away for at least a few minutes to refresh your mind. When you come back, look at the list as if you’ve never seen it before and let your eyes find the top 3-5 words that speak to you, that really get at the essence of the challenge, your experience and/or the outcome you desire.
  3. Brainstorm other situations that share some or all of your selected words. Feel free to refer to movies, literature, the news. You’re looking for the idea that connects straight to your gut. The one that excites you. The one that just feels right.
  4. Sketch out further similarities between your situation and your metaphorical situation that you can use as you move through the various stages of what’s required.
  5. Use it creatively.See this as the movie of your life. Have fun with it!

Here’s a brief list of overcoming the odds situations to get you started:

Running a marathon (or the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race)

Hunting big game

Scaling an ice wall

Climbing Everest

Building the pyramids

Playing chess with Bobby Fischer

Diving for buried treasure

Dodging Somali pirates

Sailing through a storm

Mastering an obstacle course

Outsmarting Voldemort

Carrying the Ruling Ring to its destruction at Mount Doom

April 5, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: The real reason you’re not where you want to be

Are you thrilled by the incredible opportunities available to you now?

Can you believe your good fortune to be looking for work or business at this incredible moment in time?

No??? Why not?

Do you believe there is abundant opportunity out there? (It’s there.)

Do you know what problems you and/or your company solve for others?

Are you clear about the value of what you have to offer?

If you’re not where you want to be, it’s not you. It’s not your abilities. It’s not your value.

It’s your thinking.

Where is your mindset getting in the way of seeing opportunities that are right in front of you?

Here’s what I notice:

People who think they’re going to have to settle for less, do.

People who think they are worth more, earn more and go farther.

People who think they have a problem, have one.

People who don’t, don’t.

People who think there are no opportunities out there are having a hard time of it.

People who think there must be opportunities out there, find them.

People who freak themselves out about the economy put their attention on what is wrong and on what might go wrong. They make their decisions from fear. They can’t simultaneously see incredible possibilities right in front of their businesses, right in front of their search for work.

Here’s what you can do to change your pattern:

  1. Expect opportunity. It may seem overly simple, but trust me: Our mindsets are powerful blinders. When we look where there is no opportunity, that’s what we see. When we expect to see opportunity, it’s amazing how it appears right before us.
  2. Be creative. Ask yourself how it might be possible for you to get that opportunity. Break some rules (respectfully and sanely and legally, of course). Find your own path. To paraphrase Albert Einstein: we can’t get out of the problem using the same thinking that got us into it.
  3. Stick to it. The only way to fail is to give up. Keep looking for the opportunity and keep being creative about how to get it. Sooner or later it pays off, usually sooner. Think about it. What’s your other choice? To stick with your panic and negative thinking? What good does that do you?
  4. Talk to me. I have a gift and some powerful tools for getting leaders and aspiring leaders thinking in ways that make them successful. If you’re stuck in negative thinking, email me at sharon.rich@leadershipincorporated.biz and let’s set up a time to talk about how I might help you turn it around.

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