02 Sep Secret to success around difficult people
His eyes were witchy and a deep shade of blue. He walked into the board room and slammed down a stack of reports. He was a jerk. Everyone looked down, bracing themselves for what was coming. Jack was a super GQ attractive executive, California blonde surfer hair, tan built body, surprisingly brilliant but an ego larger than the campus we all worked on. He had worked his way up the ladder in his sweet talking days when he was more tolerable to be around. The higher his level, the greater his arrogance had become. He knew he was hot, but the only people who even looked twice were ditzy airheaded women who Jack was still nice too. We all know why. He was a user, loser and selfish pig.
He had made it to VP level and then President. Chairman was his goal. He was making good progress because he knew who he needed to kiss up to and who he could step on. Surprisingly if Jack was nice to you, you became blind to his sexist and dominating way (meaning the President, other VP’s who liked him and the women he played). For the rest of us, it was easy to see his shallow side because he was crass, rude, demanding, and condescending, just to name a few. We all hated working with him and when you had to attend a meeting you knew he was going to be on a power trip on steroids, peppering orders and directives like bullets from a machine gun. There was no room for questions unless you wanted to sign up for a spotlight on your incompetence and questionable value to the team. It was literally surprising people like this were in leadership, but Jack knew just where to draw the line. He was very smart.
Some cowered at his presence. That was worse. He would eat you up and make you minion slave labor in addition to beating you up.
Some tried to challenge him and push back. It was noble but not effective. People like that usually ended up in trouble with the President, HR or other executives, as Jack found anything to get you removed. It was just a matter of time.
Some tried to be invisible. There was no hiding. That was a recipe to be humiliated and exposed.
The ones who did the best were the ones who were self-confident. They had a backbone and personal boundaries. They didn’t create ego competitions by trying to challenge, be smarter, question, show off, etc. They were clear and direct. They were powerful in a gentle kind of way. These were the most effective people because they seemed like minnows that swam right through the net. There was no resistance, power struggles, beatings or attacks. They seemed neutral. Present and active, but just enough to not overshadow and compete.
This was a fascinating profile.
What were the secrets to their success?
- Curious and noticing vs. resisting, judging and challenging
- Present and active vs. in their head
- Direct and forthright in communication vs. nervous with indirect communication
- Made eye contact vs. looking down
- Stood/sat tall, leaning in vs. slouched or leaning back
- Self-confident vs. self-doubting and questioning
- Clear boundaries and spoke in what they could do vs. unclear boundaries, excuses and squishiness
- Solution-focused and forward-moving vs. reacting and stuck with the current
- On a mission vs. waiting to be directed
- In action vs. moving slowly, open and available
- Humble and others focused vs. arrogant and self-serving
- Service-oriented vs. focused on their own tasks alone
- Dependable and faithful vs. untrustworthy and inconsistent
- Kind and caring vs. backstabbing
These were my role models. They navigated well with anyone in the company. They are the people who became GOOD VP’s.
It is clear there will always be people like Jack in the world, but if the biggest fight and struggle is about Jack, the world became only about Jack. There are better challenges and projects worth spending physical and emotional time, energy and effort on. Along the way, there will be good leaders and bad leaders, but working with any leader is not defined by their leadership, rather how an individual chooses to show up. Commit to putting on and being in this mode of personal purpose and self-confidence. It will change the way you not only navigate the world but experience it.