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How to Lead with a Difficult Co-Worker


Have you ever been forced to work with someone that is difficult? You are expected to lead with this person who simply has no intention of being a good and effective leader. In fact, they stink.

-       They don’t share your vision.

-       They don’t share your values.

-       They lead (if at all) with a different style then you.

-       Sometimes it seems they are trying to sabotage you.

Remember group projects in school. They were the worst because you were expected to do all the work for everyone else. How do you lead someone that does not want to lead? This one incomprehensible, problematic, obstinate co-worker may very well be the reason for all your frustrations in life.

So what do you do? And what are your goals for taking the following actions?

Here are 7 ways to help

1.    Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

- Look in the mirror.

- Are you being difficult in your co-worker’s eyes?

- Are you showing humility? What is the source of your frustrations?

- Are you choosing your battles wisely? What are you willing to fight for and what can you let go?

Goal – Ensures you to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the tough situation of dealing with a difficult person.

2.    Learn Their Language

- Study your co-worker.  

- How do they communicate?

- Learn how to speak to them.

- Do they prefer text, phone calls, and/or emails? 

- When in doubt, ask them what they prefer.

- Start meetings by connecting with them at a personal level. For example,

ask about their family, favorite football team, movie they saw, etc.

Goal – Ensure no loss in translation. Understand what they are saying not just how they say it.

3.    Weekly Agenda Driven Meetings

- Write out an agreed upon agenda list prior to meeting.

- Email it out and ask for feedback before you meet.

- Meet once a week at the same time and same place.

- Take notes. Ask a lot of questions.

- Communicate expectations.

- Maintain a shared vision, shared values, and a healthy tone for the relationship.

- DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY.

Goal –Ensures your relationship will be intentional, Time with them will be short, and always professional.

4.    Keep Each Other Accountable

- Conclude each meeting with an agreed list of objectives or action items for each person.

- Be smart about how you assign objectives. You might need to take on items you don’t want to do for the sake of the project or program.

- Give your co-worker items they are gifted at or want to work on.

Goal – Ensures an environment that is healthy. Your co-worker will feel valued and appreciated.

5.    Create Systematic Progress Reports

-       After 2-3 meetings, create a report of your progress toward your desired goal.

-       Gather feedback from your co-worker. Ask for input.

-       Ask for his or her opinions about the next steps to take.

Goal – Ensures progress toward a desired end or goal.

6.    Watch Your Mouth

-       Never gossip about them to anyone. This will always come back to bite you.

-       Lift them up when appropriate.

-       Speak to others about what you value about them.

Goal – Ensures protection of sabotage from outside influences.

7.    Always be Professional

-       You don’t have to be friends.

-       Continue to delegate to your co-workers strengths.

-       Agendas will keep you on task.

-       You are always at work with this co-worker. Keep your guard up.

-       Conversations are professional and intentional.

-       Remember you are not their boss. You are probably a better leader, but a good leader works with hard people.

Goal – Ensures focus on the desired objectives and goals for the partnership. This co-worker will help you get there if you allow them to.

Do you like this list? Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below. 

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