15 Ways to Deal with Strong People
The depth of the team determines the height of success.
A team of strong people goes further, faster, if they all pull together.
15 ways to deal with strong people:
- See strength in irritation. Realize the things that irritate you about others may be their greatest strengths.
- Don’t elevate conformists and demonize contrarians. Ask yourself what happens if you follow the contrarian’s passion. Will it make you better?
- Give wide liberty and strong direction to strong people. Tell them where you’re going so they know how to align with goals and focus their energy.
- Keep strong people focused on their own business. Ask, “How does this connect with what you’re doing?” If it doesn’t, tell them to mind their own business.
- Realize strong people have big weaknesses. Deal with their weaknesses or lose their strengths.
- Expect everyone to connect the dots and keep the big picture in mind.
- Provide opportunities for teammates to connect what’s important to them with what’s important to the organization.
- Expect respect, but don’t expect agreement on everything.
- Keep strong people focused on making things better.
- Don’t allow strong people to walk over you. But, don’t feel the need to raise your voice or get aggressive. Strength doesn’t have to be loud or aggressive.
- Confront public resistance publicly. Don’t argue, but expect alignment with agreed upon goals. “Thanks for your input. We’re not going in that direction right now.”
- Don’t use intimidation. Connect with strong people by demonstrating wisdom, competence, focus, tact, strength, openness, and humility. A useful strong person respects strengths in others. A waste needs everyone else to be weak.
- Give them time and space to see where they fit in. Don’t interpret reluctance as resistance.
- Be bullheaded on values.
- Run interference. If you must, tell others to back off, even if the strong person frustrations others.
How might leaders get the most from strong people?
When is it better to cut loose a strong person?
Sometimes the strong contrarian is just trying to hide fear. They’re strong, they’re smart, but this is a new situation with which they have no experience, so they feel less strong and less smart. It’s a way of staying on top, even if it’s counterproductive. What great advice to “deal with their weaknesses, so you don’t lose their strengths.”
Thanks Cheryl. YOu point out that not all strong people are helpful. One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.
Great point Cheryl…I run into this a lot in my industry (aerospace). There are a great many folks here who have been here for decades and genuinely have a lot to offer. They are also comfortable being the smartest person in the room. When the up-and-coming younger folks start speaking out for change and asking why things are done a certain way…it gets their dander up. But I think it is because they see some threat to their usefulness in some way. And I agree in some way that they are correct…but this post is a great tool to use to help us remind them that they are absolutely still valuable but so are the new ideas. Let’s work together…put tribal knowldge and the new ideas together and create something amazing!
You are absolutely right, these people can be a great resource, but its not just when they see some threat to their usefulness but then work in a concerted effort against any change that the real issues soon arise.
Strength attracts followers.. so I might add “don’t allow your team to split into camps.” Strong people often create a platform, keeping it aligned to and pointed at the group goal is essential, and (dare I say it) that means we carry a deep, complete understanding and conviction regarding the group goal — and as you point out, stay firm on values
Thanks Ken. You bring up something that was on my mind while writing this. A team of strong people easily slips into a group of silos.
As a strong person, I can assure you these are the ways that I want to be death with, as I know my strength can make me a bit of a bull in a china shop. I would like to underscore your statements about values. If you can get the strong people on board, you may have your future leaders.
Great post, Dan. Leaders really do have to deal with an array of persons they hire—from persons who have a range of emotions, to persons who have strong character, to those who continue to believe they must be champions of competition rather than champions of cooperation. Like you said a while back, “Leadership is a matter of how to be…not only how to do.”
I think persons of strong character “stand-out” because they don’t know how or what it means to “fit in.” They see it, but they need it explained to them. For example, the person who enjoys the “art of living” makes little distinction between their work and play, their labor and leisure, their mind and body, their education and avocation, their love and recreation. They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence and grace in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them, they are always doing both. To others, it is hard to tell if it’s their job…or their nature.
Yes, persons of strong character can be more savvy and energetic than everyone else. Yet, they must be made to understand the historic “survival of the fittest” philosophy is giving way to the “survival of the wisest.” This is about mutual benefit, people affecting each other’s lives, too few resources, too little time, and too delicate a balance between technology and nature to ever produce survivors in isolation today.
Humility is key to these strong persons. Humility does not mean we think less of ourselves: It means we think of ourselves less.
The key with a strong personality is to demand that they share knowledge. In our case with a UNIX team the mantra we used was “Is it in the wiki” – I also used to say “leave us a trail of bread-crumbs through the forest”.
When everyone trusts that knowledge is shared the whole group rises, and often the difficult personality becomes a mentor through documentation even when their personal skills are difficult.
Great post, Dan. It’s amazing how many leaders get this wrong, and how many “strong” people who are following leaders (even ones who implement many of these strategies) misunderstand this. A good word for both experienced leaders and for younger leaders trying to find their way. Thanks!
I admit: strong people are admirable. I like them. I find in them positivism and enthusiasm. So recognizing this and keeping up with them and be inspired by them…is something which I do. Just recognize and appreciation is valuable to both us, leaders and peers.Thanks Dan,
If you have a strong person who has gone rogue on the mission and his leadership, then it is time to let him go.
I would like to take the advice in No. 4 and ask those strong people who are inclined to comment with ownership on everything around them: “How does this connect with what you’re doing?” Perhaps there is other language and a more subtle approach to asking them to mind their own business.
I also like #4 because I like curiosity and asking open questions and I think asking a strong person to connect helps them gain clarity, something that can get muddied. I think this can be extended into other areas of dealing with such people, exploring through open questions what their thoughts are and how these connect with the values at hand, the overall project. This can provide clarity and message you are seeking to understand their ideas, their perspectives and how they can contribute to success in the overall project.
Sometimes is just about hiding our weak spots. And long time ago someone told if you find in this situation where you are in disadvantage or feel a little bit overwhelmed remember this: don’t fight against the person fight against the problem.
And I think this article confirms that saying. Of course meeting different people is how we get to know ourselves. Taking opportunities and chances that challenge our limits. I personally use a lot this site to find different forms to challenge myself. http://www.heysuccess.com/
Thanks for this, loved the article, especially points 1,8 and 12! Look forward to reading more of your blog posts!
This reminds me of the “energy vampire” post recently – what happens when your “strong person” is also the “energy vampire” in the organization? I appreciate the thoughts on supporting an individual yet not yielding expectations for performance and respect. I also think you have noted some necessary adjustments to be made regarding strong individuals or you will be in “combat” mode perpetually, which is exhausting!