4.9 Working with Difficult People Part 1

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This Intervention Grid is based on some work done by Peter Scholtes in his breakthrough book called The Team Handbook. You've just quit the meeting completely, and have gone over to the human dynamics side of things and started to deal with that part of your team. The fourth level that we would ever use is stopping the meeting, and talking to this person right in front of the entire group.

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Welcome to the lecture on working with difficult people. This is something every project manager has to do. Like it or not we just seem to run into a difficult person now and then. There are ways to deal with these people and we do not have to let this ruin our project at all. It might make our day a little bit tough once in a while, but it doesn’t have to ruin our whole day. Again, let’s look at our project diamond here, that talks about the Technical side of things and the Human Dynamics side of things. We’re on the Human Dynamics side of things over here. Now we’re going to run into difficult people in two areas, one will be our project team. Sometimes we have a difficult person on the project team that we have to work with, sometimes we have difficult stakeholders we have to work with. First of all we’re going to talk about the team and working with some people on our team that may not be as easy to work with as we would hope. Again remember that people come to our team based on their expertise. We’re not thinking about, gee, does this person work well with others? Are they going to work with me? No. They have the expertise to do this task, and this task, and this task. They’re the experts on this part of the project. I need that expertise on my team. So I will figure out how to work the best with them. They’re going to bring their interpersonal skills along the way. And let’s take a look at an example of some of those interpersonal behaviors that we might see from time to time. What’s on the radar we should be looking at? So dysfunctional behaviors are what we’re gonna take a look at first. What are things we watch for? One thing that might happen, and this can happen in teams or it can happen in the overall project. Some of these things will happen in a team setting when we’re all together working around the table in some kind of a project team meeting, doing some teamwork together somehow all together in the same room,either physically or virtually. Sometimes we have somebody who just ignores others. They just simply think that they are the ones that know everything and that they don’t even need to listen to anybody else, any other ideas. Some people just have a hard time focusing a lot of the time. And they get bored after a few seconds and just start talking to the person next to them, side conversations going on, distracting behaviors. Sometimes people just have odd behaviors, like if you have a pen that clicks, sometimes that gets to be distracting for other people in the room. Sometimes people just looking around the room, getting up, walking all over the place, doing odd things with, they’re at the table like drawing, there’s some people that just have to draw and pick at things, and do things with their hands. They just can get in the way of other people in the project team. One of the distracting things that we find these days is technology. So in the team. Well, we have somebody that, during the team meeting, all of a sudden they’re just sitting there working on the phone. Di, di, di, di, di. Well, they’re one of the people that seems to be able to multitask on a lot of things. So they’re actually listening to the team and what’s going on, and they speak up appropriately, and step in at the right times. But they’re also trying to work on something else with somebody else down the hall at the same and they’re talking back and forth on some other issue. Maybe they can do that, and maybe they can do that well, but now it’s distracting the rest of the team. So that behavior may just get in the way of the team moving forward even though that person could actually be doing two things at once. Doesn’t make any difference, it’s getting in the way of the team moving forward as a group. Withdrawing and dominating. Those two seem to go together where somebody might start to dominate the team, where they just take over, they’re the ones that start to talk. They’re the ones that wanna be in charge of everything. They’re the ones that would really rather take over the team and not have you there. They just would rather be the project team manager. Well, when that starts to happen, if the project manager lets some of these people dominate and not let other people talk and get involved, well, those other people start to withdraw. So, they just start to pull back from the team And pretty soon they are sitting there, and now they’re on their phones. They don’t care what’s going on, they’re not involved in this. They’ve got someone running the whole team, the whole meeting, all the teams work right now. They’re not involved, these other people are not involved, so they don’t care, they’re withdrawing from the team. The worst example of withdrawing is when people just get up and leave the room. They’ve just had enough. Nothing’s going on here that’s productive. I have other things to do. I’m leaving. Don’t let that happen in your team, and that is a default team methodology that seems to happen. If somebody starts to take things over and they’re allowed to dominate the team, the other people start to withdraw and you’ve seen that I’m sure in a number of teams. One of the teams that came together, they came together for a meeting, and it was a meeting on how they were going to implement a new policy that they had decided on at the last meeting. One of the people in this meeting now, it was the only person who was not in the previous meeting. So, now we start to talk about implementing this policy that had been decided on in the previous meeting. This extra person now, says, wait, I don’t think we should even do that. I don’t think that policy should be implemented. And they wouldn’t let anybody start to talk about how to implement this policy, even though that’s what this meeting was about, because they didn’t get their say last meeting. They didn’t get their say in the previous meeting because they chose not to be there, they just didn’t think it was an important meeting and decided they weren’t even going to bother to come to the thing. Well now they come in here want to completely change this meeting and completely take over the team and do something different. So the project manager said, we’ve already decided this, we’re moving forward, this is a meeting about implementing this. Now, if they would have allowed that person to dominate the meeting like they wanted to, it would have completely changed the meeting and they would have had the previous meeting all over again where they’re trying to figure out if they’re going to even implement the policy. Stating opinion as fact. If we have ideas about things, that’s great. It’s okay to say, here’s my idea, this is what I think about this, this is what I think about this idea that we’re discussing. So our opinions are fine, facts are fine. When we looked at this before we found that 12 people did this, 97 people did this, and 472 people did it this way. Those are facts, we can gather some data about things and look at facts. What we have to be careful of is some people like to have their opinion stated as fact. I’ve been around here for the last 17 years, they might say. I know how it is here, this is the way things get done just like this. So on our team if we try to do anything different, it won’t work. That’s not a fact, that’s their opinion. But they’re stating it as a fact. So that’s a thing we have to watch out for as well. These are just some of the things. Some ideas of what you do as a project team leader. We have to watch for things that people do. And then when they’re doing things that cause us and our team some problems, we step in and do something about that. So difficult people can cause you the project manager some problems, or they can cause your team some problems. You have to step in and do things about this. There’s an Intervention Grid that we’re going to take a look at. When people are doing things that are causing us problems. We’re going to take a look at an Intervention Grid. When people are doing things that cause us problems or cause our team problems, they’re being difficult, difficult to work with, with us, with the team with other people on the team, sometimes we need to step in and do something about this. This Intervention Grid is based on some work done by Peter Scholtes in his breakthrough book called The Team Handbook. It says that there are two things that we can do. If we are all working together, this is any team setting where everybody’s working together on something. We have a team meeting, we’re all working together on some issue, some aspect of the project, some task that we have to work through, some decision we have to make. One thing we can do as the project manager is step in and disrupt the meeting. What that means is we can’t work on the task side of things right now on our teamwork diamond that we’ve been looking at. The task can’t proceed because somebody’s being difficult. They’re keeping the thing from moving forward We need to stop the meeting and step over to the human dynamics side of things and deal with this person, deal with this behavior that’s going on that’s causing us problems. The other thing is we can confront the individual that’s doing something that is making it difficult to work with them. So we have these two elements confrontation and disruption so what do we do with this? The first thing we do is a low level intervention of some kind. Let’s say we have someone who is constantly interrupting everybody else as they start to speak, won’t let anybody else talk about any ideas at all. What’s one thing we can do? We can use some tools like brainstorming. Say, wait a second, let’s stop this discussion for a moment, I think what we need to do now is to use brainstorming. And in brainstorming, we just let everybody have an idea. We let everybody bring their ideas out. And we put those down up in front of the group on a whiteboard or on a flipchart some place, whiteboard or an easel. Might even put it up on a screen if we have, we’re using some kind of electronic meeting that we’re doing. We put this up for everybody to see and every one gets to say their idea. We can actually go around ask each person for their idea, their opinion. That way we haven’t really confronted anybody and we haven’t really disrupted the meeting, we just say we’re going to use a different tool here. This open discussion is not working so lets do something different. Now, we’ll maybe go to another level, the second level. See, you know, that didn’t really work. That person is still jumping in and interrupting everybody, and as soon as anybody tries to bring their idea out, they step in and start to talk. So now what can we do? We can completely stop the meeting, and say, we have some ground rules about how we’re going to work together. One person speaks at a time, and we let everybody finish their idea before we step in and add our comments to that. So we’re going to start to observe that ground rule. You haven’t confronted the person that’s doing this interrupting, but you have stopped the meeting. You’ve just quit the meeting completely, and have gone over to the human dynamics side of things and started to deal with that part of your team. Next thing, three. Our third level of intervention is confronting the person. Okay, they’re still interrupting everybody. I don’t know what’s wrong with this person. Let’s see. Okay, I’m going to have to actually talk to them directly. You’re going to do that outside of the group. So you’re not gonna stop the meeting and talk to them right now. You’re going to talk to them outside the group. So you might take a break. If you have to just talk them right now, take a break. Say wait a second, I just need to talk with you for a moment. Step over here by ourselves and talk a little. Or you may wait til after the meeting and say, I’d like to talk with you right now. Or I need to set up a time with you before the next meeting so we can talk. [BLANK AUDIO] The fourth level that we would ever use is stopping the meeting, and talking to this person right in front of the entire group. This level, we really need to never use. We can deal with 99.9% of all the dysfunctional disruptive things that people do. We can deal with those in one of these other areas before we have to actually confront these people and talk to them in front of everybody else. When it’s number three and you have to talk to an individual. Okay, you’re doing something that is causing a lot of difficulties for me and for our project team. How do we do that? What words do we put together to say that? There’s a model we can use, the Seven Step Feedback Model. And this is what we’re going to do when we have to talk to somebody when they’re doing something that Is causing us some difficulties, causing our team some difficulties. This is just a difficult person and we need to talk to them face to face about what they’re doing and try and change that. First thing, when you. What we’re going to do is talk about the thing that they’re doing, that is difficult. It’s causing difficulties for you or somebody on your team or your whole team So this is the thing that’s happening, this is the action that we want to change somehow. When you. I feel. And this is the feeling that you have, you’re confused, you’re angry, there’s something that is going on. And a lot of times this is what even gets this whole feedback thing started, why is this person difficult for you? You have some kind of a gut feeling here. This person is really difficult to deal with and you know, they’re really making me very angry here. Or they’re really confusing me, they’re difficult cuz I don’t understand what in the world they’re doing. I don’t get this at all. So I feel something about this. Because. So explain this to the person. Why is this thing causing this difficulty? You may pause here to let them respond or we may if it’s something that you really need to say all of the other pieces first, you don’t need to stop here. You can let them speak a little bit later. What I would like is. This is, you want a different behavior. This behavior is causing some difficulty, and you want to change it to a new behavior. So you can say, the new behavior I would like is this. Because. What do you think about that?

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