Tips and Techniques to Manage Difficult People

Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

3 Tips on Handling Stress

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Do you think you’re suffering from stress? Well let me tell you now; you really don’t want to be. You might think there is Fotolia_1597792_Snothing you can do about it, but there is and you must!

Let me tell you why, or remind you if you’ve heard it before, because it’s so important.

Stress can cause:

  • Heart disease
  • Sleeplessness
  • Sexual problems
  • Overeating
  • Drinking too much
  • Loss of concentration
  • Stomach upsets.

Research has been telling us for some time that many, if not most of our illnesses can be related to stress.

When you get stressed, one of the chemicals that are released into your bloodstream is called Cortisol; sometimes known as the Stress Hormone. High levels of Cortisol can lead to diabetes and skin problems.  There is also a suggestion that Cortisol attacks your immune system and leaves you vulnerable to many of the bugs and viruses that come along. This also includes cancer.

So if you’ve ever suffered from skin complaints or perhaps too many colds, it could very well be the results of stress.

I don’t want to scare you death or give you any more stress, I just want you to – think.

Here are 3 tips:

1. You can change the way you interpret and react to the situation.

The way you see the situation is based on your values, your beliefs, your culture, and how you were brought up.

You tend to believe that the way you see the situation is the correct and proper way, and that you are right.

The way the other person sees the situation is based on their values, beliefs, culture, and how they were brought up. And of course, they believe that they are right.

If these values and beliefs are similar and in line with your values and beliefs, then you will have a good situation.

However, if their values and beliefs are different from yours, then you may have a difficult situation that gives you stress.

Other people do not necessarily see the world as you see it – they see it differently.

If you react to the situation and are hooked by the other person’s behaviour; then you are in danger of being stressed.

It is important not to react to the situation, and accept their point of view. This is not about agreeing; it’s about thinking and understanding the other person’s viewpoint.

2. You can change the situation or other people. You communicate and be assertive.

Assertive communication can make all the difference to your personal success and your ability to minimise stress. It’s more that just learning to talk in a different way. It’s about:

Thinking positively- Feeling confident – Behaving Assertively

To develop your assertive communication you don’t have to change your personality – only your behaviour and thoughts.

In assertiveness training we talk about submissive, aggressive and assertive behaviour. Submissive and aggressive behaviour relates to your inbuilt fight or flight programmes that rescue you from problem situations.

Assertive behaviour will help you communicate clearly and confidently your needs wants and feelings to other people without abusing in any way their human rights.

This is a positive response in any situation that is potentially stressful for you. It makes it clear to the other person what you are unhappy about, and what you are not prepared to accept. It allows you to state your case calmly and clearly.

3. You can walk away from the situation and/or the relationship

You may not be able to change some stressful situations. It could be your work situation, your relationships or your family life. It is not always easy to walk away however you have to consider yourself, your health and welfare.

Points 1 and 2 are much more preferable actions to take, however ask your self the following:

  • Do you lie awake at night worrying about tomorrow?
  • Do you feel impatient or irritable?
  • Is your life full of crises – are you always having rows with other people?
  • Do you have difficulty concentrating?
  • Do you often suffer from butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, a dry throat or a thumping heart?
  • Are you tense – is your neck knotted-up?

I read a lot about stress some years ago and made a personal decision to decrease my levels of the bad stuff. When situations occur that are potentially stressful, I go into thinking mode to resolve it. I don’t say – ‘Oh no!’ I say – ‘Deal with it!’

I want to live a long and healthy life and I’m not prepared to let stress affect that; I recommend you do the same.

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How to Say ‘No’ and Still Be Friends

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When someone asks you to do something, sometimes the answer is ‘No’. Of course, it’s how you say ‘No’ that matters.Office managers in a discussion over progress.

I’ve been in a couple of situations recently where I’ve been asked to do something I didn’t want to do.

One organisation sent me an email asking if I’d have a meeting with one of their consultants. They wanted to discuss how they could help me regarding my personal finances. As you’ll gather – they wanted to sell me something. And it was definitely not something I wanted to buy at that particular time.

If you’re like me, your first thought is to come up with some kind of excuse; probably a lie.

But I don’t really want to do that; why should I allow someone else to compel me to be a liar.

So I emailed back saying – ‘Thank you for your email, however this is not something I want to do. Best regards …..’

I received a very nice email by return letting me know that if I ever changed my mind, they would be happy to speak with me.

Another person asked me face to face if I would attend a presentation he was giving in a hotel at the weekend. I asked him what reason I would have for doing that. The answer was a bit ambiguous and I realized that he just wanted to sell me something.

Again it’s easy to make excuses; tell lies. But I said – ‘Thank you for your invitation. It is not in my interest to do that. I wish you well with your presentation.’

Of course a salesperson will come back at you with – ‘Why do you say that’ type of questions. But you just need to stick to your original words and not get drawn into a conversation.

I sometimes answer with something like – ‘I’m unable to do that for personal reasons.’ It’s a brave salesperson that would ask what those personal reasons are.

It can be difficult to say ‘no’ sometimes. Most of us have a natural impulse to please other people.

If people make requests of you that you’re not happy with or have doubts about, you could say something like:

  • ‘Let me think about this’
  • ‘I need some time to think about this’
  • ‘Can I contact you later on this?’

Of course you do have to contact them later, and without making excuses, turn down their request.

When you say ‘no’ to someone, avoid giving too many reasons and getting sidetracked. The other person may ask why you’re saying ‘no’ or try to persuade you. However, you do not have to give some long explanation. If you do, you risk being involved in a lengthy conversation while they continue to try and persuade you.

You could say something like:

  • ‘No, I don’t want to do that’
  • ‘No, I’d prefer not to do that’
  • ‘I can understand your situation, however I don’t want to do that’

There is no need to be unpleasant; you’re merely stating what you want in an assertive way.

Remember – it’s not the other person you are rejecting; it’s what they want you to do.

Let me know what you think, and please don’t say – ‘No!’

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Feel the Fear

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It sometimes surprises people when I tell them I get slightly nervous before a speaking or training event. They seem to great danethink that because I’ve been doing it for years, nervousness would no longer be an issue.

However “nerves” is a normal human emotion and as I often say, ‘I’d be nervous if I wasn’t nervous.’

However, it’s how you handle the nerves that will determine your success as a speaker.

Similarly, many sales people feel nervous or uncomfortable making cold calls, phoning for an appointment, or following up an inquiry. Again, this is a normal response and most sales people feel this way.

One of the biggest fears for humans is the fear of rejection and we’ll do almost anything to avoid it. It stops people making speeches, contacting customers, asking for the order, or even asking someone out on a date.

Successful people feel the fear of rejection but they don’t allow it to paralyze them. They take action even although they feel uncomfortable. And of course, the more you do it the less uncomfortable you feel.

Fear is good, but only as long as you are aware of it and keep it under control; that’s what courage is all about.

In the many challenges you face in life you won’t win them all but you must have the courage to try.

I read somewhere that, winners make mistakes but losers never do.

That’s because winners have the courage to try and they know they’ll make mistakes; however that’s how they learn and move forward.

So, feel the fear and just do it!

To listen to this article or download it to your MP3 player, please go here

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How To Manage Difficult People Q&A

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Q. Why is it important to manage difficult people?

A. Research tells us that we spend 70-85% of our waking time, interacting with other people. These interactions take place at work when we’re dealing with customers, colleagues or staff. In our personal life, we interact with husbands, wives, partners, children, friends, family and neighbours. Other people are the most important factors in our lives.

We allow, and you will note I say allow, these relationships with other people to decide how happy or unhappy we will be. Sad to say, many of these relationships are not good, be they in our personal or working life. The problem is – we just don’t communicate well with each other.

Your level of communication will determine how successful you will be with others, emotionally, personally and socially. It will also have a huge impact on your financial success. However, most importantly, your level of success, in terms of your happiness, emotional wellbeing or anything else you desire, is a direct result of how you communicate with yourself.

Q. What do we mean by a difficult person?

A. It could someone who bullies, manipulates, annoys you and causes you unhappiness and stress. They say or do things you don’t like or find offensive and unacceptable. And, of course, this creates problems in the workplace. There are a whole range of behaviours that we may classify as difficult. I could list at least sixty, but not all of these are ‘difficult’ for everyone. Some people may regard a ‘complainer’ as a difficult person, whereas others couldn’t care less if someone complains or not.

Statistically, only about two per cent of the population could be regarded as genuinely difficult. If you’re having a problem with a difficult person, what you’re really experiencing is conflict. It will make life easier if you identify if you are dealing with conflict or a genuinely difficult person. Truly difficult people are rare, and you may have to accept that it isn’t personal, and they may just be that way. Conflict is personal and we may have to accept that we are part of the tension that is created.

Q. Why are people difficult?

A. Stress can cause people to be difficult and they can get stressed for all sorts of reasons. Often it’s just their inability to deal with aspects of their job and their personal life. They tend to blame other people and circumstances, but most often they have the answers within themselves.

It’s fair to say that people sometimes have problems that are out with their control. A death in the family, breakdown of a marriage or a relationship, problems with children, or they may have health issues.

It’s often the case in the workplace, that people find difficulty in doing their job and in finding help. Although they may not admit to this, they might feel inadequate and express their frustration by complaining, being negative and difficult.

Some people are not conscious of how they’re perceived by others. They believe that their behaviour is quite normal and are unable to understand why some people see it otherwise.

We all see the world differently from each other. But some people’s programming causes them to become annoyed when others don’t see it as they see it.

Some people’s lack of self-confidence and belief in themselves, often causes them to be angry at the world. They believe that other people are out to do them down and that everything is against them.

That person in your team, who gives you all sorts of problems which are often difficult to understand, may just be seeking acknowledgement. Withdrawing or failing to provide acknowledgement, either physical or psychological, will cause people to become difficult.

Q. Do you change you or change them?

A.  It has to be said; you’re not going to change them, until you change you! It’s not about changing your personality; it’s about making adjustments to your behaviour, which will make your life much easier. You need to develop your understanding of your own and other people’s behaviour. You need to take charge of your behaviour and not let other people decide it for you.

Improve your listening skills and be aware of the impact of your tone of voice and body language.

Passive and aggressive behaviours are your inbuilt programmes, assertiveness needs to be learned.

It’s also important to be likeable; selling yourself will minimise the number of difficult people you have to deal with.

Q. How do you prevent people being difficult in the first place?

A. It is inevitable that you’ll have to manage a difficult person sometime in your life and you probably believe you communicate well with other people. Nevertheless you may be inadvertently saying, or doing things that may exacerbate a situation and make your life more difficult.

When you communicate with another person it’s important to remember that human beings are almost totally driven by their emotions. It therefore makes sense to communicate on both a human and business level when dealing with another person. This is about all the simple things like using their name, being warm and friendly; listening and showing that you’re listening. It’s about increasing your ‘likeability factor’; it’s harder for people to be difficult if they feel that you genuinely care and are interested in them.

It’s also important not to get ‘hooked’ by the other person’s behaviour. Stay out of it emotionally and don’t rise to the bait.

Some words are better than others. Telling the other person to ‘calm down’ or that they ‘cant’ or that they’ll ‘have to’ do something, can often exacerbate a situation.

It’s also important to be aware that the other person may not see a situation they way you see it. They see the world differently from you and believe that what they say, how they behave and their expectations are all acceptable.

Q. How do you assert yourself?

A. Assertive communication can make all the difference to your personal success and your ability to manage difficult people. It’s more than just learning to talk in a different way; it’s about – Thinking positively – Feeling confident – Behaving assertively.

To develop your assertiveness, you don’t have to change your personality, only your behaviour and thoughts. In assertiveness training; we talk about, Submissive, Aggressive and Assertive behaviour. Submissive and Aggressive behaviour relates to your inbuilt fight or flight programs that rescue you from problem situations.

Assertive behaviour will help you communicate clearly and confidently your needs, wants and feelings to other people without abusing in any way their human rights. It is more positive, it will produce better results when managing a difficult person, and it can be learned. It is worth studying ‘Broken Record’ technique and ‘Negative Assertion’.

Broken Record is the skill of being able to repeat over and over again in a calm relaxed and assertive way; whatever it is you want or need. This continues until the other person concedes or agrees to negotiate with you.

Negative Assertion technique is used primarily to deal with criticism from a difficult person. This is where you calmly agree with the true criticism of your negative qualities.

Using these techniques will make you life so much easier when dealing with a difficult person.

Q. Are there other particular techniques you can use?

A. If you’re faced with a person who is emotionally charged up, then you first have to manage these emotions before you can deal with the problem. In other words, deal with their feelings, and then deal with their problem. You interact on a Human level to deal with the feelings, and a Business level to deal with the problem. Human level responses include: being warm and friendly, focussing on the other person, listening actively, using the person’s name appropriately, and being flexible.

Using empathy is an excellent technique for diffusing a difficult person’s problem behaviour. It has to be an absolutely genuine response, if you try to fake it, the other person will realise, and you’ll end up with an even more difficult person. This isn’t about agreeing with the difficult person’s situation; it’s about accepting that their feelings and opinions are okay for them.

When dealing with a difficult member of staff, you could ignore their behaviour, you could reprimand them or you could coach. Coaching is the best option. It’s not some kind of touch-feely approach. It’s about finding out the cause of the difficult behaviour, and discussing with the staff member how to put it right. If you do it well, you will have a happier staff member who performs positively and doesn’t give you a hard time.

Looking for the positive is another way to manage a staff member who’s being difficult or negative. Try concentrating on what they do well and tell them about it. Look for something positive in what they do no matter how trivial. There’s no need to go over the top, but say something positive rather than negative. Spend less time discussing negative issues or even ignore them. It’s not uncommon for managers to invest 90 per cent of their energy responding to negative performance and only 10 per cent strengthening positive performance.


Managing difficult people is a challenge we all face at some time in our life and prevention will always be better than cure. It’s important to choose your behaviour and not allow the difficult person to choose it for you. Don’t allow yourself to be Hooked by what other people say or do; always think before opening your mouth or taking action. Choose to be Assertive when you need to; allowing yourself to be Submissive or Aggressive, will make life much harder for you.

When faced with a difficult person, be it a colleague or a customer; always be aware that they may see the world differently from you. Empathise with their viewpoint and offer solutions that ensure a win-win outcome.

You can find more information to help you manage difficult people in this book: 

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Reprimanding is a Waste of Time

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Have you ever been reprimanded by a teacher, or your parents or perhaps your boss. I’m sure you must have been at some time unless you’re a real angel!

How did you feel?

When I ask managers on my learning events I get answers such as:

I felt

  • Embarrassed
  • Bad
  • De-motivated
  • Hurt
  • Stupid
  • Angry
  • Annoyed

And several other negative feelings.

Sometimes I hear; ‘I will never do that again!’ And then they go on to say; ‘But I don’t want to work for that manager.’

Why is reprimanding a waste of time?

It’s a one-way process. It’s all about the person giving the reprimand, not about resolving what the reprimand is all about.

It de-motivates the employee. It de-motivates the rest of the team, if they are aware of it. It’s bad for morale, it’s bad for customer service, and it’s bad for sales.

And how does the manager feel? Most managers don’t like having to reprimand someone, they don’t feel good about it, and resultantly it’s stressful for them.

Managers who reprimand also spend a lot more time replacing employees who leave.

Reprimanding is a complete waste of time and energy.

What’s the alternative?  

Coaching is about finding out the cause of poor performance or behaviour and discussing with the team member about how to put it right.

It’s about behaviour you’re not happy with.

Behavior that will stop you achieving your outcomes

This is not some softly-softly approach; it’s being very clear about what you’ve seen, heard or been made aware of.

It’s about listening to what the employee has to say, gaining commitment to change, and agreeing positive action to make it happen.

What are the consequences?

  • The employee feels good
  • More productive behavior
  • The employee knows what’s expected
  • They are motivated to change
  • They know you care
  • It ensures a happy, engaged and motivated team

And a happy and engaged team means more customers, clients or guests; more sales and more profits.

To listen to the podcast of this article, please go here.

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Discover the Cure for Cranky Customers

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When was the last time you had to deal with a cranky customer? It was probably an external customer but perhaps it was an internal customer, such as a member of your team, a colleague or even – your boss!

I’m sure you always want to provide extraordinary service to both your internal and external customers. However, in the real world, things go wrong and mistakes are made.

These ‘customers’ will often judge your level of service based on how you respond to a mistake. Do it well, and they’ll probably forgive you and possibly say positive things about your business or your abilities to other people.

The important thing to realize when dealing with a cranky customer, be they internal or external, is that you must – deal with their feelings, then deal with their problem.

Upset customers are liable to have strong feelings when you, your product or service lets them down and they’ll probably want to ‘dump’ these feeling on you.

You don’t deal with their feelings by concentrating on solving the problem, it takes more.

Here are 10 action ideas that deal with the cranky customers’ human needs:

1 – Don’t let them get to you

We often allow the customer’s attitude to irritate or annoy us. This becomes obvious to them through our tone of voice and our body language. This only fuels a difficult situation. Stay out of it emotionally and concentrate on listening non-defensively and actively. Customers may make disparaging and emotional remarks – don’t rise to the bait.

2 – Listen – listen – listen

Look and sound like you’re listening. – When face-to-face you need to look interested, nod your head and keep good eye contact. Over the ‘phone – you need to make the occasional “Uh Hu – I See”
If the customer senses that you care and that you’re interested in their problem, then they’re likely to become more reasonable.
If appropriate, write down the facts. This again shows that you’re listening and that you will do something about it.
Another useful listening technique is to paraphrase; to repeat back the problem to ensure your understanding, and let the customer know that you are listening.

3 – Use names

A persons name is one of the warmest sounds they hear. It says that you have recognized them as an individual. It is important not to overdo it as it may come across as patronizing to the customer. Make sure they know your name and that you’ll take ownership for the problem. DON’T blame someone or something else.

4. Watch out for the customer’s ego:

 Don’t interrupt
 Don’t argue
 Don’t jump in with solutions
 Allow them to let off steam
 Don’t say, “Calm down”

5. See it from the customer’s point of view

Too often we think that they’re making too much fuss. We think – ‘What’s the big deal; I’ll fix it right away.’ It is a big deal for the customer and they want you to appreciate it. You don’t necessarily need to agree with them; however it’s important to accept that it’s a problem for them.

6. Be very aware of your body language and tone of voice

We often exacerbate a situation without realizing it. Our tone of voice and our body language can often contradict what we’re saying. We may be saying ‘sorry’ however our tone and our body language may be communicating our frustration and annoyance. People listen with their eyes and will set greater credence on how you say something rather than what you say.
It’s also important to use a warm tone of voice when dealing with a cranky customer. This doesn’t mean being ‘nicey-nicey’ or behaving in a non-assertive manner.

7. Words to avoid

There are certain “trigger” words that cause customers to become crankier, especially in emotionally charged situations and they should be avoided. These include:
• Have to – as in – ‘You’ll have to speak to the sales department yourself’
• I can’t or you can’t – as in – ‘I can’t do anything about that’ or ‘You can’t do that’
• I’ll try – as in – ‘I’ll try and speak to finance department today’
• But – as in – ‘I agree with what you’re saying but……..’
• Sorry – as in – ‘I’m sorry ‘bout that’

Instead of the words ‘Have to’ which are very controlling type words, why not try – ‘Are you willing to…’ or just a straight ‘Will you….’

‘Can’t,’ can be replaced with – ‘I’m unable to because….’

‘I’ll try,’ which is pretty wishy-washy, can be replaced with something more honest – ‘This is what I can do’ or ‘This is what I’m unable to do’

‘But’ is a word that contradicts what was said before it, replace it with – ‘And’ or ‘However’ (which is a soft ‘but’)

Instead of saying ‘but’ you could leave it out altogether. For example; instead of – ‘I agree with what you’re saying but I can’t help you’ use – ‘I agree with what you’re saying. The reason I’m unable to help you is……’

Sorry is an overused word, everyone says it when something goes wrong and it’s lost its value. How often have you heard – ‘Sorry about that, give me the details and I’ll sort this out for you.’ Far better to say ‘I apologise for ……’ And if you really need to use the sorry word, make sure to include it as part of a full sentence. ‘I’m sorry you haven’t received that information as promised Mr Smith.’ (It’s also good practise to use the customers name in a difficult situation).

8 – Empathize

Using empathy is an effective way to deal with the customers feelings. Empathy isn’t about agreement, only acceptance of what the customer is saying and feeling. Basically the message is – ‘I understand how you feel.’
Obviously this has to be a genuine response, the customer will realise if you’re insincere and they’ll feel patronised.

Examples of empathy responses would be – ‘I can understand that you’re angry,’ or ‘I see what you mean.’
Again, these responses need to be genuine.

9 – Build rapport

Sometimes it’s useful to add another phrase to the empathy response, including yourself in the picture. – ‘I can understand how you feel, I don’t like it either when I’m kept waiting.’ This has the effect of getting on the customer’s side and builds rapport.
Some customer service people get concerned with this response as they believe it’ll lead to – ‘Why don’t you do something about it then.’ The majority of people won’t respond this way if they realise that you’re a reasonable and caring person.
If they do, then continue empathising and tell the customer what you’ll do about the situation. ‘I’ll report this to my manager’ or ‘I’ll do my best to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.’

10. Under promise – over deliver

Whatever you say to resolve a situation, don’t make a rod for your own back. We are often tempted in a difficult situation to make promises that are difficult to keep.

We say things like – ‘I’ll get this sorted this afternoon and phone you back.’ It may be difficult to get it sorted ‘this afternoon’. It is far better to say – ‘I’ll get this sorted by tomorrow lunchtime.’ Then phone them back that afternoon or early the next morning and they’ll think you’re great.

Make no mistake about it; customers, be they internal or external, are primarily driven by their emotions. It’s therefore important to use human responses in any interaction particularly when a customer is cranky, upset or angry.

If customers like you and feel that you care, then they’re more likely to accept what you say and forgive your mistakes.

If you want to listen to an audio version of this or download it – come and get it!

This is an excerpt from: 


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Managing Difficult People – You get what you reward

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Have you ever considered that you might be rewarding difficult people for their behaviour? These could be customers, colleagues or members of your staff.

A few years ago there was a documentary programme running on BBC Television called – “Little Angels.” It was a series that offered help and advice to parents who were experiencing behaviour difficulties with their children. I’m sure there are similar programmes in other parts of the world. The children are often out of control, won’t do what they’re told, and generally dominate the family.

Part of the programme shows the parent dealing with the child while receiving instruction from a clinical psychologist through an earphone. The psychologist watches what’s happening on hidden cameras, and constantly tells the parent to reward the child, with words of support, when they do something well. When the child misbehaves, the instructions are to ignore, and leave them alone.

There is a huge temptation for the parent to reprimand the child but this is not permitted by the psychologist.

Are you giving them what they want?

There isn’t a whole lot of difference when dealing with adults who misbehave. If you’re a manager of people, think for a moment about that difficult employee who never seems to do things quite right and takes up so much of your time and attention. Maybe that’s just what he or she wants – your time and attention; and as long as they continue to get what they want – they’re going to continue being difficult. You are in effect rewarding them!

Concentrate on the positives

If you have a difficult team member or employee, try concentrating on what they do well and tell them about it. Spend less time with and even ignore them when they misbehave. It’s not uncommon for managers to invest 90 percent of their energy responding to negative performance and only 10 percent strengthening positive performance. If you reward good behaviour – you’ll get more of it. If you reward bad behaviour – you’ll get more of it!

Put this to the test right away and it should make your life a whole lot easier.

If you want to listen to this or download it to your MP3 player, please click this link

Successful Managers Don’t Get Stressed

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Firstly we need to consider what we mean by a successful manager. I believe that there are two factors that identify a successful manager:

  1. A manager who gets the job done
  2. A manager who does it in the easiest and least stressful way possible.

Let’s be totally clear about point 1: – as a manager you’ve got to achieve your target, your production figures or whatever it is that your organisation requires of you. Its one thing to have a happy motivated team; however it’s another thing if they’re not doing the business. If that’s the case, then you’re not a successful manager.

You also want to be able to go home at night in the knowledge that you’ve done what was required of you. That can be a great confidence booster and it also makes you feel good about yourself.

Don’t kill yourself

However I’m sure that in being a successful manager and achieving your business goals, you don’t want to kill yourself in the process. Too many managers are suffering from stress, losing sleep and damaging their family life. That’s not what success is all about and I’m sure it’s not what you want. Some managers seem to believe that stress and hassle is all part of territory, and that they should just accept it.

I’ve known successful managers in terms of achieving their business targets who were not successful in their personal life. How many marriages have suffered because one of the partners was spending too much time being successful in their job?

How often has the relationship with our children suffered because of a lack of quality time spent with them?

I’ve know managers who’ve collapsed in the workplace due to stress. I’m sure you’ve also heard of sports coaches who’ve suffered heart attacks while watching a game.

It’s been said that success has to come at a price, however that price should not be paid in terms of a troubled personal life. We can pay the price of success by changing our viewpoint, increasing our knowledge of human nature and making changes to the way we lead our teams.

John Wooden ex UCLA Basketball coach was voted the best sports coach of all time in a recent poll.

“I had a successful basketball career,” he wrote in his 1997 book Wooden. “But I believe I had an even more successful marriage.”

Successful managers get products out the door or hit their sales target and if they’re in sports, they win the championship. However they also do it at the lowest possible personal cost to themselves and their families.

If you want to know how to do this, then read my book – How to be a Motivational Manager, or keep following this blog.

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10 Tips to Manage a Difficult Boss

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Does your boss motivate you, or do you find him or her difficult to deal with? If you’re lucky then it will be the former rather than the latter.

When I’m running a seminar or workshop on Leadership, Sales or Customer Service, the comment I hear most is – “How can I achieve this Alan when my boss doesn’t motivate me, and makes my life difficult?”

So the next question is – what are you going to do about it?

One of the best ways to motivate and deal with difficult people is to give them feedback on their performance. You tell them when they do things you do like and you tell them when they do things you don’t like.

It’s exactly the same with your boss. Now I appreciate that we’re getting into scary territory here but you’re going to have to be brave and take some action. There’s no point in going on about how your boss needs to change, because that’s unlikely to happen unless you do something about it.

The rules for giving your boss feedback are:

1. Do it ASAP – When your boss says or does something you do or don’t like, you need to say something right away. If it’s something you do like, it’s not much use saying something weeks later – “Thanks for helping me with that difficult customer last week Dave.” Dave is going to have a bit of a problem remembering that situation and the effect of the feedback is totally wasted.

It also makes sense to tell Dave about something you don’t like as soon as possible.

2. Do it in private – You really don’t want members of your team or your colleagues hearing what you say to your boss, be it good or bad.

3. Check that it’s okay to speak – Make sure that you have your boss’s full attention. There’s no point in trying to make your point if they have something else on their mind or they’re working on their computer. It’s also good manners and shows respect.

4. Announce your intentions – If your boss is not used to receiving feedback from you, what do you think runs through their mind when you pull up a chair or ring them on the phone – they think its bad news! They think you’re about to complain about something or you’ve done something wrong or there’s a problem.

It’s important to tell them up front what you want to speak about.

You might say – “Linda, I’d just like to thank you for something you did today.”

Or if it’s something you don’t like you might say – “Linda, I’d just like to talk about something you said today that I’m uncomfortable about.”

5. Tell them how YOU feel about their behaviour – This is nothing to do with anyone else. Don’t say things like – “The team don’t like the way you speak to us.”

Use lots of ‘I’ messages; say things like – “I’m unhappy with the way you told me how to do that job today. It made me feel embarrassed in front of my team members. Would you be prepared to speak to me in private in future?”

6. Focus on one thing at a time – Don’t confuse your boss with a whole list of behaviours. If it’s things that you do like, then you’re in danger of coming across as patronising. If it’s things that you don’t like, then it may come across as a whinge.

7. Be specific – When you’re giving your boss feedback it’s important to focus on job related behaviour and not on the personality of the individual.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable, try to focus on the boss’s behaviour in terms of how they said or did something. That’s what you’re giving feedback on, not them as a person.

It becomes easier if you’re using ‘I’ messages and being very descriptive about what you’ve seen or heard. You could say something like – “I liked the way you showed me how to layout that report – thank you Jeff.” Or – “Jeff, I’m concerned by the way you told me how to do that report. It’s important for me to get it right, would you be prepared to spend a bit more time explaining what you require?”

8. Include the customer and the organisation – Whenever appropriate; relate what your feedback is about to how the customer or the business could be affected. This of course could be an internal or an external customer.

9. Get input – When giving constructive feedback, it’s important to get the boss’s input. You might say – “I’m unhappy with the number of tasks you’ve asked me to do this week and I’m concerned that I may not be able to do them in the best interests of the business. However I’m willing to listen to what you have to say and discuss how we can make efficient use of my time.”

10. Don’t leave them low – This is particularly important after giving feedback on something you’re not happy about. This isn’t an attack on the boss; it’s about job related behaviour. Think about how you feel when someone speaks to you about something they’re unhappy about. It can leave you low and possibly stressed.

Some years ago after a particularly ‘difficult’ meeting with my sales team I was feeling a bit low. However, at the end of the meeting one of the team said – “Alan, we’re all going for a beer and we want you to join us. We have no hard feeling towards you and we like you as our boss.” You can bet that made me feel good.

There’s still a culture in some organisations that doesn’t allow the boss to be challenged. It’s a case of – “The boss tells me what to do and it’s my job to do as I’m told.”

It’s also the case that some people don’t want to say anything to their boss for fear of being perceived as negative or a whinger.

Be brave and give your boss some positive feedback. The occasional compliment or descriptive thank you will work wonders for your relationship. And if the boss is doing or saying something you don’t like, give him or her some constructive feedback using the rules above.

If you follow these rules, then you’re much more likely to motivate your boss, manage any difficult situations, and achieve more positive results.


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5 Ways to Make Customers Difficult

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Do you have many difficult customers in your business?

There are actually very few genuinely difficult customers in the world. And I hear you say “we’ve got all of them!” However the majority of customers in the world are reasonable people. They may not think the way, or look the way, or sound the way that you do. However they are your customers and if you want their business then you’ve got to deal with them.

They may get ‘difficult’ from time to time if they feel they’ve been let down. It’s how you handle them that’ll determine if they continue to be a problem, or if you can turn them around.

Here comes trouble

Difficult customers and situations usually occur because some part of your core service has failed, or the customer perceives it to have failed. You’ve not delivered on time, the customer has the wrong product, it doesn’t work or it’s not what the customer expected.

What happens then is; the customer comes to the interaction with you in a negative frame of mind. It’s what happens after that, that’ll decide whether they deal with you again or bad mouth your business to other people.

The trick is not just to concentrate on fixing the core service issues. Telling the customer that you’ll replace the product, deliver it in half an hour or knock something off the price, isn’t the answer.

Sometimes you may not have an answer and the customer is going to hear “No.” However as you’re aware, it’s how you say “No” that matters.

5 Ways

Let’s consider some of the reasons customer interactions go wrong and why they may become more ‘difficult.’

  1. We don’t care. – We don’t sound or look as if we care, are concerned or appreciate the customer’s situation. Maybe you do care, however you’ve really got to say caring words and look and sound as if you care. After all, the customer can’t read your mind.
  2. We don’t listen. – Too often we try to jump in with solutions and don’t allow the customer to vent their feelings. Again you need to show the customer that you’re listening by what you say, how you say it and your body language.
  3. We let the customer ‘get to us.’ We often allow the customer’s attitude to irritate or annoy us. This becomes obvious to the customer, again through your tone of voice, your body language and only fuels a difficult situation.
  4. We use the wrong words. – There are certain trigger words that cause a customer to become more difficult. Some of these are ‘cant’ – ‘have to’ – ‘sorry about that.’ Even your organisation’s jargon can have a negative effect on a customer interaction.
  5. We don’t see it from the customer’s point of view. – Too often customer service people think the customer is making too much of a fuss. They think – “What’s the big deal, we’ll fix it right away.”  The thing is, it is a big deal for the customer, and they want you to appreciate that.

A happy ending

Customers will often judge the level of your service based on how well you recover from a difficult situation; and they’re very likely to forgive you if you do it well.

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