Category Archives: Influence

How To Deal With Difficult People.

Recently I have been reading about leaders in various organizations and I have been struck by the fact that in every organization–business, government, military, education, ministry–the vast majority of problems are interpersonal. People cause a lot of trouble.

How to manage Difficult people

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is a reason that books like Don’t Let Jerks Get the Best of You and Dealing with People You Can’t Stand exist. 

How to Deal With Difficult People.

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In the 8th Habit, Stephen Covey wrote: “The soft stuff is the hard stuff and everyone is coming to know it. That is why leadership is the highest of all arts; it is the enabling art.”

If people problems are the primary issues in organizations, then leaders need to learn to deal with people effectively. Two books I have used for years in my leadership and organizational behavior classes are The Truth about Managing People and Principle-Centered Leadership

Truth about managing people - How to deal with difficult people

The Truth about Managing People is a short little read. It  is like a textbook stripped of all of the unnecessary words. I believe that this is how it was developed. After all, Robbins is known for his best-selling textbooks.

The book is excellent. In it, Robbins explains simple concepts like why “telling your employees to ‘do your best’ isn’t likely to achieve their best,” (p. 47) and  why “the essence of leadership is trust” (p. 87). If you are just starting out in management, read this book. It will help you detect the landmines that you cannot see.

Principle centered leadershipPrinciple-Centered Leadership is one of best books on leadership that I have ever read. [For more, see my Top 10 Leadership Books] The book winds and meanders, but it contains so many gems.

Covey focused on how leadership only exists in the context of a relationship. He explained that: “there are times to teach and train and times not to teach. When relationships are strained and charged with emotion, attempts to teach or train are often perceived as a form of judgment and rejection” (p. 82). As a professor, that passage spoke to me.

In another place he wrote, “there is nothing on earth that can buy voluntary commitment. You can buy a man’s hands and back, but not his heart and mind” (p. 179). How many millions of dollars have been wasted because management did not understand this concept?

A major theme of the book was the simple idea that, “you can be efficient with things, but you must be effective with people” (p. 189).Effectiveness is not the same as efficiency, and confusing the two can lead to disaster. When dealing with people, the shortest path to an agreeable outcome may take more time, but shortcuts seldom work.

If you see the wisdom in these few passages, read the book. You can get it on Amazon for less than $5 on Kindle (immediately) or for a penny (+ 3.99 shipping)  if you can wait a few days.

Want to know how to deal with difficult people? These are the best resources I can suggest. What are your suggestions?
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References:

Covey, S. R. (1991).  Principled-centered leadership. New York: Free Press.

Robbins, S. (2013). The truth about managing people, 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 22, 2012

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The One Thing You Must Understand In Any Negotiation.

Negotiation is so hard because we make it hard. When we attack the other side, we limit our chances for a mutually satisfying solution. We create our own prisons and then we wonder why we are trapped.

Jail

As I write, our politicians are locking horns in a contentious debate that will affect us all.  Debate is nothing new, but the level of acrimony seems to be on the rise. The acrimony is accelerated by the moral superiority that each side feels it has over the other. This leads to more hyper-partisan attacks, but it also reduces the chances that we will arrive at creative 3rd alternative solutions.

Identity.

The core of the problem is that each side sees their position as their identity. We have forgotten that when you attack the position, you attack the person.  Stephen Covey wrote:

3rd_AlternativeAlmost everyone identifies with one alternative or the other. That’s why we have liberals against conservatives, Republicans against Democrats, workers against management…spouse against spouse, socialist against capitalist, and believers against nonbelievers. It’s why we have racism and prejudice and war.

Each of the two alternatives is deeply rooted in a certain mind-set. For example, the mind-set of the environmentalist is formed by appreciation for the delicate beauty of balance of nature. The mind-set of the developer is formed by a desire to see communities grow and economic opportunities increase. Each side usually sees itself as virtuous and rational and the other side as lacking virtue or common sense.

The deep roots of my mind-set entwine with my very identity. If I say I’m an environmentalist or a conservative or a teacher, I’m describing more than what I believe and value–I’m describing who I am. So when you attack my side, you attack me and my self image. (pp. 9-11)

The One Thing You Need To Understand.

 Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

I am a Christian. For me, this is a primary identity. So when secularists attack Christmas  (e.g. renaming a Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in order to embrace people of all faiths), I understand how many Christians experience this as an attack on them and their values.

I am a Conservative. So when the far-left seized the opportunity to advance their gun-control agenda in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, I quickly penned three articles in defense of 2nd Amendment rights:

[Note: I believe that most ordinary Americans–even those who are now rethinking gun-control–simply want to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated. These people are different than those with a prepackaged agenda.]

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Notice that I said “I am” a Christian and “I am” a Conservative. I did not say that I think that Christianity or the Founding Fathers provided  rationally superior systems of thought. It is simply not that abstract. This is what I mean by identity. 

The point is this: If you are a Conservative, do not demonize Liberals if you wish to make any progress.  Remember:

Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

It Is The Same Way At The Office.

At work, if you have just disparaged Todd about the XYZ account at the last staff meeting, you are not likely to get Todd’s support on most basic items on your agenda.

If you say 2+2 =4, he will not attack your math, but you had better be prepared for him to ridicule your elementary thinking or your inability to think outside the box.  Why? He worked hard on the XYZ account and when you attacked it, you attacked him.  You violated his identity.

Whether you are in Congress or at the office, the one thing you must understand in any negotiation is that in order to gain cooperation you must not attack the other’s identity.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever experienced an attack on your identity that prevented your cooperation?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 20, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The Professor’s Picks: Top 10 Leadership Books

I am regularly asked for reading suggestions by MBA students. Sometimes I am asked by complete strangers on Twitter (www.twitter.com/DarinGerdes) for reading suggestions when they learn that I am a management professor.

My bookshelf at Charleston Southern University.

My bookshelf at Charleston Southern University.

So I have decided to provide my personal top ten list of leadership books. If you have read my Blog, you will notice that these are books that I have recommended in other articles.  That is because these are some of the best.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityNote: If you are interested in any of the books listed below, click on the title or the picture. I have linked each to Amazon.com so you can click through and purchase the book. I like to use Kindle because I want to get it right now (and you can download right to your PC with no additional hardware required), but the hardback and softcover editions are listed too.

Top 10 Books on Leadership:

Leadership ChallengeThe Leadership Challenge – This one is one of the few books that has fundamentally altered my thinking on leadership.

With 20 to 30 years of leadership research backing the findings, the leadership challenge is one of the sources I trust the most on leadership.

leadership-and-self-deceptionLeadership and Self-Deception – This short little read will cause a paradigm shift in your thinking. Read it, and you will never be the same.

Do you really see people as people or as things to be manipulated? If the latter (and most of us think like this from time to time), we will run into a host of leadership problems.

its_Your_shipIt’s your Ship – Written by a Navy Captain who transformed one of the worst ships in the Navy into the best. This book incredibly inspirational.

Captain Abrashoff  know how to empower his people and he applied these techniques to his command. Apply these ideas to your team too.

21 Irrefutable laws-of-leadershipThe 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John Maxwell  (one of the leading and most prolific writers on leadership) provides outstanding practical advice on leadership. His insights are right on target.

If you have already read the 21 Irrefutable laws, get Leadership Gold.

Primal LeadershipPrimal Leadership – This book blends the study of leadership and emotional intelligence.I found it remarkable because it suggests that the best leaders rotate between 6 basic leadership styles depending on the need.

If you like this, you may also like Emotional Intelligence and Resonant Leadership (by the same authors).

lead like Jesus

Lead Like Jesus – Learn to lead with the towel and basin. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, setting an example for his disciples to follow.

This book is much more intelligible than Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership (the book that started the servant leadership movement), and it is written from a well-developed Christian perspective .

Five Dysfunctions of a team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – This book is written in the leadership parable genre made popular by Ken Blanchard. It is surprisingly simple, but you have to read through the entire story to grasp it.

Read the book and apply it. Before long, you will be the change you see.

Leadership Theory and Practice

Leadership Theory and Practice – This one is a textbook that covers all of the academic theories on leadership.

Purchase this only if you are looking for an academic view of leadership. Of course, if you are looking for a textbook, I have to recommend my textbook: The Bottom Line in Leadership and Management.

On Becoming a LeaderOn Becoming a Leader – Warren Bennis is perhaps the leading authority on leadership. He has been teaching Leadership at UCLA since 1979. He has his own series of books on leadership written by many different authors.

On Becoming a Leader is a must read for the serious student of leadership. It is considered a classic in the field.

Steward LeaderThe Steward Leader –  If you are a Christian, I am not sure that you can lead properly without understanding the concepts in this book.

As a Christian, you are not leading for you, but you are a steward of that which God has entrusted to your care. However, all leaders should understand this concept, since most leaders are agents of others–senior, management, the board, or the people.

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I will also compile a top ten list on:

  • Management
  • Organizational Behavior & Teamwork
  • Economics
  • Business.

What books would you like to see on the list? What have I missed? I am always looking for good suggestions. Thanks for reading.

Darin Gerdes

December 4, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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What is Leadership? – Part II [Video of short lecture – 10 Minutes]

In part II, I continue to discuss the nature of leadership based on a review of the academic literature. See Part I here if you missed the introduction.

Here we discuss the following:

  • Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityRelationship
  • Emotional connection
  • Change
  • Leading by example

In the lecture I talked about a fantastic book, It’s your Ship I have linked it here.

Because he understood leadership, Captain Abrashoff  transformed one of the worst performing ships in the Navy into the best of its class. I highly recommend the book.

WARNING: As a sailor, Captian Abrashoff has a salty tongue, so the book gets a PG-13 rating. But, I recommend the book because he understood the fundamentally empowering nature of leadership. Here are a few brief passages to illustrate:

its_Your_ship

I found that the more control I gave up, the more command I got. In the beginning, people kept asking my permission to do things. Eventually, I told the crew, ‘It’s your ship. You’re responsible for it. Make a decision and see what happens.’ Hence the Benfold watchword was ‘It’s your ship.’ Every sailor felt that Benfold was his or her responsibility (p. 6).

I was determined to create a culture where everyone on board felt comfortable enough to say to me, ‘Captain, have you thought of this?’ or ‘Captain, I’m worried about something,’ or even ‘Captain, I think you’re dead wrong and here’s why.’ Yes-people are a cancer in any organization, and dangerous to boot (p. 89).

How much more effective would our organizations be if all leaders thought like this?  Have you ever worked for someone like Captain Abrashoff?

Darin Gerdes

December 2, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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What is Leadership? – Part I [Video of short lecture – 5 Minutes]

This is part one of a two-part introduction to my discussion of the nature of leadership in my MBA Classes at Charleston Southern University.

In this video, I provide an overview of the core elements of leadership according to the academic literature.

Then I briefly discuss:

  • Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityVision,
  • Influence
  • motivation

Want More? Watch Part II of What Is Leadership? Part II will be the best 10 minutes you spend today, or your money back (actually, that is not much of a claim since it is free, but I stand behind my content).

invisible-employeeThe Wayne Gretsky story comes from Adrian Gostick’s book, The Invisible Employee.   At the time of this writing,  used copies are selling on Amazon for as little as a penny.

His other books are linked below on the Amazon page. I would recommend that you read everything Gostick writes.

 

Darin Gerdes

December 1, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Filed under Effectiveness, Efficiency, Influence, Leadership, Management, Motivation, Organizational Behavior, Video in Post, Vision