Archive for Communication


The Power of People Skills

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By far the greatest obstacle to success that I see in others is a poor understanding of people. A while back the Wall Street Journal published an article on the reasons that executives fail. At the top of the list was a person’s inability to effectively relate to others.

One day I was talking to someone who was complaining about not winning a business contract that he had bid on. “It wasn’t fair,” he told me. “All the people involved knew each other, and we didn’t have a chance. It’s all politics.” But then what he went on to describe wasn’t politics. It was relationships.

Authors Carole Hyatt and Linda Gottlieb indicate that people who fail on the job commonly cite “office politics” as the reason for their failures, but the reality is that what they call politics is often nothing more than regular interaction with other people.

If you haven’t learned how to get along with people, you will always be fighting a battle to succeed. On the other hand, making people skills a strength will take you farther than any other skill you develop. People like to do business with people they like. Or to put it the way President Theodore Roosevelt did: “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

From The Maxwell Daily Reader

There’s room in any organization for every type of person. From the big-picture person to the detail-conscious, all can make a valid contribution. But sometimes a team member’s strength can be their weakness. Attention to detail can become fixation on the negative. And the voice of reason turns into the voice of discouragement.

This is the problem we have with Critical Carl. He’s probably the most thorough and conscientious team member. He’s a great planner. But he seems to only see the negative. And he voices his criticisms to anyone who will listen.

We’ve been spending the past few weeks talking about leading difficult people. You can click the names to read about Fearful FredSlumped SusanExcited Eddie, and Disorganized Debbie. Now let’s discuss how to understand, listen to, and lead Critical Carl.

Understanding Critical Carl:

  1. Behavior:      Often negative
  2. Motivated by: Someone to listen to him
  3. Strength:      Detail-consciousness
  4. Weakness:    No filter

Listening to Critical Carl:

  1. Privately sit down and discuss Carl’s concerns.
  2. Discuss the way he’s chosen to voice them.
  3. Point out that he tends to focus on the negative.
  4. Find out if he wants to change.
  5. Share when, how, and with whom it’s appropriate to point out his concerns.

Leading Critical Carl:

  1. Ask the people negatively affected to meet with you and Carl.
  2. Ask for their side of the story.
  3. Ask Carl for an explanation.
  4. Share with them that Carl has a problem with criticism.
  5. Share with them the process you’ve asked him to follow.

Growth Plan:

Read Be a People Person together

What impact does Critical Carl have in your organization? His negative comments have the potential to discourage fellow team members and halt all forward momentum. By accepting at least some of his concerns as valid, and teaching him how he can – and can’t – share them, you might channel his attention to detail in a way that builds the team and contributes to every project.

Next week: The final difficult person in this series, Grandstanding Gary

I love spending time with enthusiastic people. I’m pretty high-energy myself. An enthusiastic follower can be a joy to work with. His excitement about his work has the potential to energize the entire team.

With one exception.

Let’s talk about Excited Eddie. He’s got loads of enthusiasm for his work, but only to a point. You see, his excitement only lasts for as long as the project is new. Eddie is a fantastic starter, but his ability to finish projects is lacking.

Just like Fearful Fred and Slumped Susan, you need to lead Excited Eddie in a way that works with his personality. If you understand, listen to, and lead him appropriately, you can harness his startup enthusiasm and help him to finish well.

Understanding Excited Eddie:

  1. Behavior:            High Enthusiasm
  2. Motivated by:       New Challenges
  3. Strength:              Starts Strong
  4. Weakness:           Seldom Finishes

Listening to Excited Eddie:

  1. Privately sit down and listen to Eddie’s exciting startup stories.
  2. Ask him for the “rest of the story.”
  3. Take into account how his emotion may cause him to exaggerate.
  4. Let him see what he lost by not seeing things through.
  5. If he desires to finish well, develop a game plan.

Leading Excited Eddie:

  1. Give him a new challenge.
  2. Keep him focused.
  3. Reward him for finishing well.
  4. If he’s a good starter, assign a steady and detailed person to assist him.

Growth plan:

Read Today Matters together.

Do you lead an Excited Eddie? Or are you personally more likely to start strong than to finish strong? Through guidance and effective rewards, you can channel Eddie’s enthusiasm so that it carries his work through to completion.

Here’s a truth that I’ve believed for a long time: Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less. If a leader has no one following, he’s only taking a walk.

Of course, not everyone is easy to influence. Some followers are difficult to connect with. Last week we talked about the art of influencing difficult people, with a focus on Fearful Fred. With Fred, the goal was to get him started, to go from no momentum to sustained growth.

But what happens when a follower who had a great deal of momentum begins to fall behind? What does a leader do when this follower stumbles or stops altogether?

Let me introduce you to Slumped Susan. This is the follower who was a good performer, someone who got results and approached her tasks with enthusiasm. But somewhere on the journey, she fell off the tracks. Now, with no momentum or confidence, she’s barely moving.

Just like last week’s Fearful Fred, leading Slumped Susan requires you to understand her, be willing to listen, and give her the tools to grow. If Susan believes that you support and believe in her, she’ll be more likely to start moving forward again.

Understanding Slumped Susan:

  1. Attitude:            Depression
  2. Motivated by:   Coaching
  3. Strength:           Past Success
  4. Weakness:        Pessimism

Listening to Slumped Susan:

  1. Privately sit down and discuss her slump.
  2. Let her talk about the good old days.
  3. List what she did when things went bad.
  4. List what she did when things went well.
  5. If she desires to change, develop a game plan.

Leading Slumped Susan:

  1. Remove her from others while she’s in the slump.
  2. Reprioritize her workload.
  3. Remain with her as much as possible.
  4. Require her to do what is right, not what she wants to do.
  5. Remember to encourage her as much as possible.

Growth program:

Read The Winning Attitude together

Are you a Slumped Susan? Or do you lead one? With coaching and positive attention from the leader, Susan can regain her confidence and begin to shine again.

Next time:  Excited Eddie

Someone once said, “90% of the art of living consists in getting along with people you cannot understand.” Haven’t you found that to be true? I know that if everyone were just like me, then relationships would sure be a lot simpler.

But people ARE different, in wonderfully complex ways. And there IS an art to living together. If you’re a leader, the differences are amplified, because you have to not only get along but also influence the other person. So it’s especially important for a leader to learn how to handle personalities and attitudes that are different from your own.

I’ve led a lot of people over the years, and not all of them were like me. Some were especially difficult to lead. And over the years, through trial and error, I’ve discovered ways to effectively lead most people.

For EVERY person you lead, it’s important to get to know them well. Understanding is the key to success in leading a difficult person. That’s because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. For the next few weeks, I’m going to share some tips for dealing with the difficult people that you may lead.

Let’s talk about one type of difficult person today, so you can understand who he is and where he’s coming from. This will make you a more effective leader for him and others like him.

Fearful Fred

Have you met Fred? He’s a nice guy, certainly not trying to be difficult. He’s just a person living under the influence of his fears. And their influence is amazingly strong. What Fred is most afraid of is the unknown. He avoids anything new or different, so it’s hard to lead him where he’s never been before. And his fears paralyze his productivity.

To lead Fred, you need to understand him, be willing to listen, and give him tools to grow. People truly don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If Fred trusts you and believes that you have his best interests at heart, he can be very loyal and even courageous.

Understanding Fearful Fred:

  1. Attitude:           Low Enthusiasm
  2. Motivated by:    Support
  3. Strength:          Steady Worker
  4. Weakness         Fear of Risk

Listening to Fearful Fred:

  1. Privately sit down and discuss Fred’s fears.
  2. Identify his fears and the reasons why he has them.
  3. Evaluate his desire to overcome his fears.
  4. If his desire is high, develop a game plan.

Leading Fearful Fred:

  1. Plan a project together.  This gives him Strategy
  2. Give guidelines to follow. This gives him Structure
  3. Do a project that is easy. This gives him Safety
  4. Do a project together.     This gives him Security
  5. Do a project that is winnable. This gives him Success

Helping Fearful Fred Grow:

Read Failing Forward together.

Do you lead a Fearful Fred? Or maybe YOU are a Fearful Fred. I’ve found from personal experience that by attempting to understand and meet him where he is, a leader can successfully influence Fred and help him to grow. And a motivated Fearful Fred can also lead himself through these exercises and find courage.

Next week, we’ll talk about another difficult person: Slumped Susan.