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7 Tips to Handle Difficult Team Members

Written by :
Rohan
October 20, 2020
Leadership & Teamwork
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These are strange times. 


Some years ago, I tried out for a music group. During my audition, while I twiddled away inexpertly on the bass guitar, I suddenly became aware of the band leader screaming at me, saying:


“Stay on G!! Stay on G!!

HOW MANY TIMES MUST I TELL YOU TO STAY ON G??!!”

 

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While I tried gamely to remain faithful to G, I couldn’t help feeling useless and unnecessarily attacked. 


Picture the scene: 

A loud band playing, silken-voiced singers singing  on microphones, the stage vibrating from the exertions of extremely motivated drummer... 


I was overwhelmed; it was quite a challenge for me to focus on any voice – soothing or otherwise – that was trying to give me any instruction.


I naturally tanked the audition. I was initially tempted to blame the demanding band leader. But instead, I was drawn to ask myself, have I ever acted like that band leader before? Have I put others in that situation that I was in? People who, like me in the audition, weren’t prepared, weren’t up to the mark and weren’t familiar with new challenges. 


How many of these people had I brow-beaten into an unproductive corner? 

How many times have I vented my frustration on them?


Sadly, too many. 

 


Perfect teams do not happen by chance. You will meet team members who are underperforming or not keeping up with the team's pace and dynamics. For some, even after numerous attempts to address these issues, nothing changes. You then start to find them difficult to deal with. Some of us may even associate these team members with negative emotions like frustration and distaste. 


Handling difficult team members is awkward and requires forethought, strategy and intentional action


The key is to know that no matter how difficult you perceive your team member to be, your goal is to improve productivity from them while maintaining motivation and happiness. THAT is the outcome that you want.


So, when faced with a difficult team member, ask yourself: 

How can I use this difficult team member situation to 

  1. help the person?
  2. add value to the team?

 


Here are 7 tips for you:

If you would like a personalised coaching on Handling Your Own Pip, please fill up this form and we will get in touch!

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1. Person In Problem (Pip)

Avoid being personal – Hold in mind that the problem is the behavior, not the actual person. As such, deal with the problem (behaviour) without attacking the person (carrier of the behaviour). As Shakespeare said, “don’t shoot the messenger”. 


To help this process, let’s call this person Pip (Person in Problem). You will read about some of Pips that I have met, who you may come across yourself.



2. Define Standards

Common sense is not common.

Not everyone shares the same standards and 'common sense' as you. 

At my first job, I came face-to-face with people who regularly used and  laughed at racist slurs or jokes. They did not see anything wrong with this behaviour because they were raised in families and communities that did the same. To them, it was their version of what is normal.


Pip wasn't born with bad behaviour; he just doesn’t know better. We haven’t set the standard for him. Define clearly, what is acceptable to give Pip a fair chance of choosing the right behaviour.



3. Think: What's Different Now?

Pip was constantly snapping at others, unreasonably. Team leaders found him difficult to give instructions to. 


It was later discovered that Pip was struggling with an abusive relationship. This knowledge gave clarity as to why Pip behaved difficultly.


Take a step back and analyse Pip's situation right now

  • What caused Pip to behave in a certain way? 
  • Why now? 
  • What is Pip’s history? 


Too many leaders jump in without thinking, assuming that Pip and his situation is the same as countless many before, therefore requiring simple tried-before solutions. 


Wrong! Things change. You need to stop and think.


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4. The Power of TWO

Consider at least two alternative solutions to address Pip’s situation. Brainstorm with someone else who is trustworthy, if that will help. Don’t jump for the first solution that comes to mind. This is usually the easiest and most obvious solution, but not always the best. 


Also, you may not have the answer immediately. Sometimes, Pip – and perhaps you – may need to go through a process of discovery.


 

5. Talk Right

Pip was a salesperson who was under-performing. His soft-spoken supervisor called him in early in one morning and said, 


“You know you’re not hitting your sales numbers, right?”

“Yes.”

“And you know I’ve got my eye on you, right?”

“Yes.”

“OK good. I just wanted you to be aware of that.”


2 months later, Pip’s sales were even worse. His supervisor calls him in and asks, “You remember that conversation we had?” Pip says, “No.”


Talking to address workplace situations seems obvious, but so many leaders don’t do this well. The resolution to most people-situations includes significant interaction


Therefore, learn to do this well. There are a few things you must be aware of to ensure that you become increasingly better at face-to-face interaction:


  • Talk is two-way – Talking in this context requires understanding more than instructing. So more listening, and no lecturing.


  • Tone – Choose soft, gentle, understanding tones over louder and bullying ones. Aggression is not a sustainable solution. 


  • Timing – Think about when to speak, and how often. Too much talk at the wrong time affects trust and comfort. Too little talk is ineffective and forgettable. 

 


6. Action Plan

Pip had great plans of becoming very rich. But he had no action plan and, inevitably, no action. He talked, but didn’t walk. He thought, but never fought. He had no target, so he forgot.


To help Pip, have him create an action plan


Realisation without action is futile. The key here is for Pip to be included in this process, ideally with him leading it.


At the very least, agree on just one tangible act to perform – and write out the plan!


Some simple examples include: 

  • Be on time 4 out of 5 times a week
  • Apologise by Friday
  • Keep a written log of activities
  • Plan every morning for 5 minutes 


 

7. Accountability 

Pip came to me in January. He was in financial trouble. He promised to repay me if I helped him out. I gave him a loan. In December I reminded him. He was surprised, “Oh, you wanted repayment this year?”


Help Pip to be accountable. To comply with timelines and deadlines. And especially to report to someone, not necessarily you.

 

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We all know a Pip. 

If you can learn how to deal with the problem, you will help the person. 


The better you become at this, the more meaningful, productive and joyful your life will become. In both your corporate and personal spheres.



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If you would like a personalised coaching on Handling Your Own Pip, please fill up this form and we will get in touch!



Written by :
Rohan
October 20, 2020
Leadership & Teamwork
Share this article :
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