3 Ways to Invest Your Time When Dealing With Difficult People

Darrell Hammond Sr.

30 March 2020

All of us have a lock on who the difficult people are in our lives and under our leadership. When asked what makes other people difficult, most of us will include characteristics that reflect far more or significantly less of an attribute or quality we would prefer in our followers.

It’s human nature to think our perspectives and approach are, in fact, the most effective on the planet. This is what we are most familiar and comfortable with and, of course, we have witnessed how effective our leadership styles and tactics are. 

Often, when I provide executive coaching, I remind leaders that leadership is not about our comfort, but about how well we lead those under our charge no matter how frustrating or difficult the person seems to be. In fact, the more bilingual or ambidextrous leaders can be in understanding and utilizing different communication and leadership styles, the more effective they will be.

When most leaders think about emotional intelligence, they think of knowing what triggers a person and how they should respond. This is true, however, there are specific things that we can do to lead more effectively, and they all have to do with how we use our time. Here are three things you can do to invest your time wisely in being an emotionally intelligent leader. 

  1. Intentionally carve out time to grow and develop your leadership. I know your next thought: “Darrell, I don’t have time to sit around listening to Dave (or whatever the difficult person’s real name is) and trying to analyze him. Besides, I’m not a shrink.” To that I say, you are already spending more hours working around Dave and cleaning up after him. Instead of continuing this cycle, invest this precious time on the front end with intentional leadership focus instead of the back end patching up what you’ve allowed him to break or negatively influence. Seek resources that will grow your leadership and provide you guidance on how to lead difficult people
  2. Study people. Doing so can help you understand what leadership language you must use to get the most and best from your team. This, of course, means you must intentionally focus and choose not to succumb to daily distractions, especially the neverending digital distractions that steal your ability to attend to the people and issues that require thoughtful leadership.
  3. Invest your time and attention to listening carefully. If your ‘Difficult Dave’ is abrasive, pushy, offensive and disrespectful, your gut response might be to avoid him. Instead, ask Dave strategic questions about what engages and disengages him from his work. What are you doing to motivate him? Is there anything you’re doing that’s getting in the way of him performing at his best? Be intentional and really listen

I promise that you will learn something new about Dave that will help you dial in to his frequency, speak his language, and ultimately increase your persuasion and influence as a leader. 

In the next 24 hours, schedule a face-to-face meeting—jump on FaceTime or Zoom—with the person who came to mind as you read this article and begin to take proactive steps to manage your team’s performance and your culture. Be bold and preemptive and not permissive and reactive!

Darrell Hammond Sr.

Darrell Hammond Sr. is a keynote speaker, executive coach, peak-performance facilitator and founder of Higher Ground. Through keynotes, workshops, consulting and coaching, Darrell shares his expertise in leadership and employee engagement to inspire leaders and their teams to get more done with greater alignment and fewer headaches.

Subscribe to our leadership content