Are you being manipulated?

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Isn’t it great when you don’t have to worry about a team member? Their projects just move along. They don’t bring you problems. They never complain.

Are you being manipulated? More on this in a moment.

Let’s contrast the easy team member with the complainer on your team. The complainer is always there, bringing problems. They take energy. You have to sort through their emotion to get to an action item. You’re never sure how much you should get involved…or ignore. They make you tired!

I realized recently that I’m a paid complainer. I bring problems to executives and coach them through solutions. The approach for this comes naturally to me and while not always comfortable, it is something that my executive clients have asked for.

I was speaking with a director-level leader. She reports to the higher level executive who brought me in. The director didn’t know me well. They were at a critical point in a change effort to implement a new product, and she was new to the team. At about ten minutes into our discussion on a particular topic, she stopped me with: “I don’t have time to listen to your complaining.”

This was a huge insight…because from my perspective, I was warning of an obvious cliff she was about to plunge over and we were there to think through the best way to avoid the disaster in a proactive way.

She thought I was complaining. I was disrupting her day. I represented more work to an overworked person.

Why would she want to hang out with me? She wanted to end the meeting and avoid me in the future. (I know this because we talked about it much later. By the way, she didn’t go over the cliff.)

Take the fact that I am an expensive advisor out of the equation. If I was a member of her team, why would she value my input? Would she seek out my experience? Would she support me when the going gets tough? Would she identify development opportunities for me? Would she consider me for a promotion? Or would she just avoid me?

I’m interested in your experience. Does it match up with my experience described below?

I’ve found the team members who take more of my time and effort are usually much more valuable than those who are easy for me.

Those passionate “complainers” (while a pain to deal with), provide a tremendous value. And they provide a clear task to help them channel their passion in the most productive way.

Easy is a warning. It tells me to look more closely. My experience has shown that the “easy” team members have turned into the biggest problem areas, ranging from lack of innovation…all the way to full out narcissistic bully.

Things going smoothly can mask inactivity on important goals; unnecessary bureaucracy; squashing spirit; and lack of service to the mission. I’ve found this happens because I’m not paying attention closely enough. They aren’t a fire to put out, so I don’t always notice them.

The problem is that we can be easily manipulated into supporting those that are easy for us to deal with over potentially more valuable resources that require more work.

To do this week: Analyze each relationship between yourself and your team members. Mix things up. Dig in and determine how things are really going. Are you supporting everyone on your team or just those who make it easy?

Please let me know how it’s going. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don’t know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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» Leadership » Are you being manipulated?
On February 14, 2017
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