Successful people manage challenging people by only making commitments with others that they know they can keep. While this may seem elementary, I have witnessed it many times and have realized that it is a critical differentiator in many situations. In particular, what successful people understand is that there are two great challenges to being a leader. The first is impact awareness and the second is precedent awareness. As stated in The Law of the Whole, i.e. change in one part changes and influences all other parts, the difficulty when dealing with challenging people is to recognize that our actions with these individuals can impact more than just them and can set a precedence for future situations. Therefore, the key is to only make commitments you can keep and not set a precedence in the process.
Furthermore, successful people respect other people’s time, and others respect their time. Time management is a huge issue for people in leadership positions. When dealing with challenging individuals, it can be even more difficult, especially because challenging people can become the source of constant interruptions to a well planned day.
Successful people recognize that time management and information management are interconnected. Challenging people may not fully comprehend how important the flow of information is within the organization, how much people do or do not know about a certain subject, or make assumptions about what is or is not important. Clarifying the expectations around the flow of information is important and one way to do this is during regular coaching sessions
However, we need to help those who participate in coaching to understand that coaching is a structured dialogue about development, purpose and strategy. It involves questions, analysis, action planning and follow through. In coaching, we may not always be able as coaches to solve the problem. Instead we have emphasize the choices.
Dealing with difficult people is normal. The key is to clarify our commitments, and respect the interconnection between time and information management. When we do this, it will make a major difference in what gets done each day.