#14 - Dealing with That Special Someone
Managers often talk to me about the special person on their team who seems to be using a different operating system. The typical scenario goes something like this:
Manager: We have regular meetings in my office. Every time I bring up the report he hasn’t finished, his answer usually is: “I’m working on it. A bit of a delay, but it should be ready by end of month.” So I ask him if there’s anything I can do to help. The answer: “Nothing really.” The manager sighs with exasperation because this sequence repeats itself over and over again. Next, the Manager starts to exercise more stringent oversight of this employee. The employee gets sick, files a complaint, or both. The Manager then takes on the extra work and there is no resolution in site.
With one manager I coach, we broke the problem and solutions down to 3 parts:
Part 1 - The work: What kind of work does this person do naturally? In other words, what is comfortable for them, and in turn, how far are you taking this person out of their zone? Sometimes a person can learn to flex and stretch to new requirements and sometimes not. Have you had the deeper conversation about right fit, or do you simply talk about results?
Part 2 - The language: Sometimes we speak in a foreign language and don’t realize it. Not only do we speak this language but we don’t test for understanding. “I need a strategy with an action plan and measurable outcomes by September 1st.”??!!
We assume the other person knows what we mean and is just putting it off. But a specialist who has never done strategy development will usually have no clue about how to write a strategy. Have you walked he or she through the process? The following questions can help guide your conversation: What are the components? How do you articulate it? Why this is important?
Part 3 - The person: Usually this person’s personality ends up being the polar opposite of the manager’s. The manager is quiet, this person does everything at full volume; the manager is warm and friendly, this person keeps to himself and rarely steps out of his office; the manager loves to brainstorm and talk of the big picture, and this person prefers to deal with details. Yet, the subtle expectation is that the person will adopt the manager’s values. So how ready are you to stretch outside of your comfort zone to consider another way of going about things? What would it take to connect with this person in his or her model of the world?
All in all, if you’ve considered all of the above, and had the conversations about your observations, the impact on you, what you want moving forward; If you’ve also listened diligently to the other’s needs and gave thoughtful consideration to ways to create a common future; If you both have stretched and the results are passable at best, then you may want to consider going your separate ways. After all, this is a relationship like any other relationship. A bad marriage sometimes can’t be fixed. Giving parts 1, 2, and 3 an honest try may lead to the answers you need for next steps.