Leadership Tips: Choosing to Deal With Difficult Behavior

In my recent post I suggested that when someone’s behavior drives you crazy, you might ask yourself if he or she is a traitor (How Do You Deal With a Difficult Person On Your Team Who…?).

I mentioned that most people who’s actions drive us crazy are not traitors at all. Instead, they are well-intentioned folks who are exhibiting difficult behavior.

Only the behavior is difficult, not the person — once we realize this, we can address their behavior instead of their intention. This allows us to address the person with compassion.

But the behavior still exists, so what do you do?

Here is the next step: determine if you are willing to take responsibility for getting what you want.

After all, it is your problem. You have made it your problem by choosing to be bothered by the behavior. (Did you ever notice that not everyone is bothered by what bothers you?)

Making the other person “wrong” for their behavior might make you feel right but certainly won’t help you get what you want.

Any time I’m in a situation I don’t like and don’t want to be in, I figure I have three choices.

I can:

  • live with it (and be unhappy)
  • change it (to be happier)
  • or get out (to be happier)

If you see more choices than these, I hope you’ll point them out to me.

However, if you also figure that these are your same choices, then the problem of someone else’s difficult behavior has now become as much about you as it is about them.

This is a critical point. Many people check out at this point. They choose to limit their power and the breadth of their influence because they are unwilling to successfully confront it and make an informed choice.

For instance, years ago I made a choice to reduce my involvement in a group because I wasn’t willing to confront a specific individual’s behavior any further than I already had, and I wasn’t willing to live with it any more.

After months of trying various approaches, I no longer perceived a strategy for getting what I want in relation to this person’s behavior.

I clearly recognized this as my limitation and choice, and I chose to get out. Remember, this is after months of working to change it.

So the question is this: are you willing to confront this well-intentioned teammate about your problem with their behavior so that you can get what you want in the future?

When you take responsibility in this way, the person you are really confronting is yourself. The person with the difficult behavior is just offering you a convenient mirror for examining yourself.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch

Think of a situation where you’ve been living with a teammate’s difficult behavior. What will it take for you to be willing to confront it and let him/her know that it is a problem for you?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, Teamwork on 09/09/2013 01:00 am
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