Dealing With Difficult Team Members – Part 1 – Coaching Session


What if you have ten people on a well-performing team and one of them is a high-capacity potentially good performing team but has either attitudes or communication kinds of oddities that could disrupt a good team dynamic, okay? So all kinds of things go through the leader’s head… if they can make a contribution don’t remove them from the team; if I remove them from the team everyone’s going to wonder/think I fired them and some awful thing is going to happen…

So we start this ping pong, what should I do, this that, this that, this that, and you go, “Stop, time out. I wonder if anyone has ever had a conversation with this individual about his attitude and his communication oddities”. How many of you think anyone’s ever had a conversation with him about that stuff? No! There are people who do certifiably weird things repeatedly in meetings all over the place and you just go, “You’ve got to be… Stop doing that odd thing!” And you realise no one’s ever had the conversation with them about it ever! And they might if someone would have that first conversation.

So in these kinds of situations where you have someone who could disrupt, my feeling is scripturally you owe that person, what Joseph Grenny called a ‘crucial conversation’. Say, “We value you, we love you, we’d like for you to be a part of the future we’re building together, however I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not but when you do this, when you say this, when you show up like this, when you handle yourself like this, it hurts the team dynamic, can we talk about that?”

What we try to use the phrase a lot around here is, ‘would you help me understand, help me understand why you do this?’ And so if you have a few of those crucial conversations and you feel movement that maybe the person’s getting it and you can, you know, mainstream them onto your team, great. If a person is going to be, and again this is insider Willow language, if they’re a blocked learner, you bring stuff up they don’t get it, you bring it up again they can’t hear it, you bring it up again they say “Hey, that’s just the way I am”. They’re a blocked learner, there’s no development going to happen. Then you have another conversation, “I want to have a conversation why we’re always having this conversation and there’s no development. There has to be development, we are all developing a better future and if you can’t move and grow and develop with us you can’t be a part of our future”.

You know Jack Welch, someone who I really admire in so many ways, his famous axiom, ‘the kindest form of management is… ‘what…? ‘the truth’. The kindest form of management is the truth. We have to be the courageous people who say to others, “You have a lot to bring to the table but when you do this, say this, commit this behaviour, show up with this attitude you disqualify yourself from making a crucial contribution to our team so this can’t continue”. And then you have that hard conversation and sometimes it takes two, three, four, five of those before you move to a resolve of some kind.

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