The Power of Frustrating Leadership Friends
People who frustrate you fill holes in your leadership. You need them more than you think.
I took on my first leadership challenge in 1981. I didn’t even know what leadership meant. I did know that it seemed I was surrounded by people who frustrated me. They didn’t want to do what I wanted!
Since then, I’ve learned to appreciate frustrators; the people who look at the world different from me. Sometimes they don’t want what I want. Frequently, however, we want the same thing, but they’re frustratingly different.
I never liked it when someone told me I was like my mom. But, I am. My temperament comes from mom’s French-Canadian roots, emotional. I’m an emotion filled leader and I’m emotional. I work at being emotionally steady.
My first leadership friend was frustratingly steady. He’s still my friend, thankfully. During a recent skype chat, I admired the steady cadence of his thoughtful comments.
In addition to being emotional, I wrongly believe seeing the big picture is enough to get things done. I’m fortunate to have a leadership friend who loves to “frustrate” me by using the term, “operationalize.” He says, “I’m just trying to operationalize what you’re saying.” I hate that!
Here’s another one. I have a leadership friend who loves to measure results. I don’t want to measure results. Just keep pushing toward more. He frustrates me by asking, “What are you going to measure?” Grrr!
Al, a long-term contributor on Leadership Freak is different from me. I’m provocative and sometimes abrasive. Al is tender hearted. Even though we’ve never met, Al’s kindness always teaches me. In my younger days I might have thought Al was weak, but no more.
The richness of leadership is found in community, not isolation. Cultivate a team that shares your values but looks at things different from you.
Have you experienced those “frustrating” people who turned out to be wise, after all?
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As always, you are so honest Dan. It’s refreshing and a model for us all.
To answer your question – indirectly – I have encountered many ‘frustrating’ people over time and one of the lessons I learned is that they usually mirror something about me that needs work. The wisdom comes from identifying that and paying attention to how that serves me – and doesn’t serve me.
P.S. I am Canadian in full 🙂
OUCH! 🙂 … boy the truth can sting.
Always great to have you drop in from the North.
I’ve worked for the same company for seven years. I’ve seen two MD and three HR Directors come and go. All of them I frustrated. I argued and I disagreed. All pulled rank and ignored or patronised me.
I’m still here and still trying to get my message through, Let the people form teams using their experience and talent and let’s make this company The Best.
My question is : What do I do to get my message across?
Thanks for your comment and question. At best I can offer a couple general ideas on getting your message across to higher ups.
First, listen if you want to be heard. Listen to understand. Listen carefully and then talk in their language not yours.
Adopt their values as long as they don’t offend yours.
Deliver clear results and help others deliver results.
Communicate your ideas in the context of established thinking whenever possible. Do your best to extend rather then confront.
Sadly, some leaders are threatened by people offering suggestions.
Get in their boat and row like heck in the direction they are going. Once you demonstrate you’re on their team, ears are more likely to be opened.
We like people who like us…do your best to like the people you’re trying to influence.
Clearly articulate, after earning the right to be heard, how your suggestions bring advantage to everyone…
Frankly, I don’t know enough about your situation to offer any definitive ideas or even ask effective questions. The ideas I offer are very general and I hope you might find something useful.
YOu have my best,
All sympathy and appreciation for your struggle to get heard in the honest way. You must be an ambitious & perfectionist and probably at the middle management category. My humble submission is that you can continue doing your good work in the interest of your organization. Sooner or later, you will be noticed by the higher ups for your contributions and the will to bring improvement in the prevailing systems and management approach. Try to get the support of your immediate boss and follow the hierarchy level keeping the respect with politeness while communicating the facts through e-mails or personal talks.
You may please remain as a good professional and take a position of authority to bring in the desired changes in the work place with team efforts. Maintain your good image with concrete results which others would admire and help you to enhance the respect.
I agree that there are people around you that will frustrate you. But I am still struggling to find their value. They frustrate me because they are ineficient and tend to take the long way to do everything. Hopefully one day I will see them as a value in one form or another
I love your observation and frustration. You bring up an important idea.
It’s one thing to be frustrated because someone is incompetent, it’s quite another to be frustrated because they are competent in areas you aren’t.
I think I have leadership frustration on my team with one particular person all the time. We want the same exact thing, we just want it differently. It doesn’t look the same in each of our minds. So we push, pull, and shove (not literally) on issues we agree with but stand on opposite corners looking at the same event.
Fiery read! Awesome. Sharing!
Thanks for sharing your story Ricardo…you have my best wishes for success. Dan
Welcome and thanks!
Dan, I just had one of the most frustrating and exhilarating experiences of my life in leadership. As part of the Leadership program I’m in at the moment, we had to partner with another member of the group to design and co-lead an event. My partner and I knew we wanted to work together because we really respected and saw what the other had to offer.
But, oh, was it frustrating sometimes! When we clicked, we clicked, but sometimes it took a while to find the alignment necessary to click.
Like your friend, my partner wanted to have things more nailed down. I wanted to trust our knowledge and our bare bones and let it fly. By taking the best of both, we created a fabulous mini-workshop on Leadership and Self-Awareness and look forward to designing in more modules in the future.
Frustrating? Sure. But mostly rich, creative, and amazing!
Great seeing you again and thanks for sharing your story. It encourages me and I’m sure others, as well.
Why can’t everyone be more like us 😉 …
I am a new learner and appreciate the words of wisdom!
Kathleen, A good word is a thing of beauty. Best, Dan
Hi Dan, thank you for your words of encouragement. “leveraging your weaknesses” as you have mentioned comes to mind. Throughout the years I have discovered that on occasion the old adage “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing” really holds true. I believe if we look beyond the action there is a humanity waiting to be unearthed. If we believe that “failure is the bridge between experience and wisdom” then everyone has something to teach us.
Provocation is a great catalyst for innovation and those gifted with precision timing can stir reactions that sometimes end up changing the world. Frustrating people can be “provocative and abrasive.” Harrnessing their energy however often provides the requisite “wake up call” to shatter complacency, become uncomfortable, and create urgency, all essential for true change to ensue.
The partnership and confluence of the provocateur and the aroused can create achievements neither could conjure alone. In truth we are all necessary, all valuable and all hinged on each other’s talents. It is not a question of greater or lesser abilities rather a matter of co-dependence, understanding, honesty, trust, and ultimately love and compassion.
Love where you went with this comment.
The quote: “If we believe that “failure is the bridge between experience and wisdom” then everyone has something to teach us,” is a real keeper.
What I get from your comment is it’s one thing to stir the pot or provoke … but quite another to take provocation to the level of productivity. So TRUE!
In my case, small doses of provocation with large doses of getting to the next level are serving me well. I used to be just the other way… large doses of provocation. That seldom helps.
As always you have my best,
Isn’t it true of life too?
You know, I read a few blogs regularly and there is one that the author keeps holding up various mirrors (in 300 word or less of course) that I have to reflect and introspect on…then there’s a community o’ folks who of course respond to his blog and that gets me journeying down more paths I hadn’t realized were even there…some days frustrates me, other days delight…two sides of the same coin perhaps. Would not have had such an opportunity 10 years ago.
I’m with you man. Frankly, the conversation is my favorite part. And your addition always enlightens and challenges. You way with words often entertains with a punch. You make this place better. Thank you.
YOu have my best,
Wow. Another great post. And what what a great point: “People who frustrate you fill holes in your leadership.” It is very true. And “You need them more than you think” resonates with me as a teacher of highschool students as well as a mentor to new teachers and teacher candidates because it is the challenge I face almost every day.
Indeed, I had a professor in teacher’s college chastise a class after a student had said, “I know it; I just can’t explain it” to which he responded “If you can’t explain it, you DON’T know it.” People who don’t just ‘get’ what I am trying to say or who don’t just intuit what I am trying to do require me to prove that I know something well enough that I can explain to someone who doesn’t think like me.
Thank you for your posts. They often verbalize those thoughts of mine that are still thoughts that I haven’t verbalized.
HI Mister Cooke,
Your comment lets me know that you’re working to make a difference. You lift us all.
You made me think about the power of an illustration or a story to help someone see the “light.” I’m sure you’ve been there when the light came on… it’s a beautiful thing… When it isn’t flickering, it’s easy to get frustrated…
I love your addition to this conversation.
Two powerful ideas emerged from this insightful post. Appreciate frustrater, and measure outcomes. I usually think why people frustrate someone? There could be basically two reasons. Either the person frustrating you is incompetent and hence fearful by your success or he is your true well wisher wanting you to become more successful. Here we discuss about second category of people. However, it is not necessary that the person frustrating you is not wise. He might be more wise than you. So, I think we need to take criticism in positive context. We should in fact thank other person for exposing our weak areas. Frustrating people could be wise beforehand, but there are people who frustrate you to show that they are wiser than you. When person has good intention to frustrate you, like making you more knowledgeable and powerful then frustrating people are wise. But when intention is to demean, demoralize or criticize, then however wise the person be, he can not be termed as wise.
I love this post and the comments! So honest. I just finished a leadership course. I have to remind myself when people are abrasive to “Seek first to understand…then to be understood”.
I so appreciate and look forward to your posts. Thank you very much for your honesty and inspiration.
when i’ve been frustratingly frustrated, words that fill my mind are none other than those demeaning..etc. unfortunately!
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“The richness of leadership is found in community, not isolation. Cultivate a team that shares your values but looks at things different from you.”
That is such a powerful statement and points to everything I believe in as a leader. I feel very strongly that you can’t lead without having a team that shares your values. I spend time ensuring additions to the team are aligned with those values and that the culture that has evolved around them is protected. It is so important also to value individual opinion and encourage inquisitiveness… but that is part of my value system and is built in to our culture.
Great thought provoking post as usual. I love reading your blog.
You have talked about ‘frustrating leaders’ who may have a different perspective or approach.
How do you or have you dealt with fellow leaders that are frustrating because they may be incompetent?
Reblogged this on mistercooke's teaching blog and commented:
The opening two sentences, “People who frustrate you fill holes in your leadership. You need them more than you think…” are so powerful that when I read those I felt it my boots. It is very easy to distance oneself from those who don’t immediately jibe with one’s leadership style, but, as this post suggests, “The richness of leadership is found in community, not isolation. Cultivate a team that shares your values but looks at things different from you.” Very powerful.