Man on Cliff canstockphoto13401191Consider the value of difficult people when you adjust your personal perspective toward them. In an ideal world, you always get to pick ideal candidates when building your team. In the real world, this is not the case. Rather, you either inherit your team, or discover the reality after they come on board. You get the good, the not so good, and the downright undesirables. Your ability to lead and work with your undesirables often starts with your ability to consider the value of difficult people.

In reality, most of us do not get to choose with whom we must work. Rather than making the best of a bad situation, take steps to turn it into a great situation.

The most popular quote I hear about building a team is from Jim Collins. You have to get the right people on the bus. I seldom hear the second principle that Collins espouses.You have to get them on the right seat.

It is a great principle. I have heard the quote to justify changes and terminating existing employees. Ideally, you get to drive your bus and monitor it at the same time. You control the door and carefully control whom you allow on your bus and where your riders get to sit. You get to stop and let people off your bus at locations that are convenient to you. Many problems can simply be solved by adding, shifting, or dismissing the people you invite on your bus. The theory is perfect, the application is difficult.

At some point, policies, protocol, budgets, contracts, culture, projects, and superiors all seem to get a say in who gets a seat on your bus. You might find yourself in a bad situation whereby you simply have to make the best of a bad situation. Many leaders, and non-leaders, find themselves stuck working with people they would rather see disappear. Your first preference may be to see the wrong people go away, but is it always the most beneficial?

Here are four ways to consider the value of difficult people:

  • Build Your Character: The first reason is personal. Sometimes it takes a character to build character¬Ě. Many careers are cut short because of one’s inability to deal with difficult people. If you cannot figure out a proper response and reflect it in your good character, you may be the one management views as the problem. Building personal character is a life-long process, so you should start today.
  • Discover Opportunity: While others may be gossiping or criticizing the difficult person, your ability to rise above the fray can create an opportunity for you. Become the person who solves problems despite obvious challenges. You may not just help find the solution, but also grow your positive reputation.
  • Grow and Learn: While never easy, dealing with difficult people will provide you plenty of learning opportunities. You should be able to leverage your personal growth and expand your influence. View difficult people as an opportunity to stretch into new areas of learning.
  • Invest Yourself: I like to think everyone is redeemable, even though not everyone may support the idea. Once people get the label of being a miserable person, it is difficult for them to shake it. People will give up on them limiting their opportunities. This becomes your opportunity to help them, despite their behavior. They may not appreciate it, but even a word of support while they are absent can improve other people’s attitude toward them.
  • Avoid Keeping Score: Even though you go out of your way to help someone, do not keep score. Let your help be unconditional so they do not become a further distraction to you. Keeping score creates realized and unrealized expectations that the difficult person may have no intention of repaying. Setting expectations give them power you do not want them to have. Give freely and avoid worrying about results.

Consider the value of difficult people as a strategy to help them rather than undermining or avoiding them. Finding mature and honest ways to address their issues help them become valuable contributors making it difficult for others to dismiss them.

Do you agree or disagree with the premise of this blog that we should consider the value of difficult people rather than dismiss them?

Consider the Value of Difficult People