Checking Your Own Behaviour

Tips on How to Deal With Difficult People for Managers


People don’t do thinkgs in isolation. You will remember from school that you had some very good teachers and some poor teachers.

You will also probably remember that, while you and your classmates behaved well for the skilled teachers you did not behave so well for the poorer ones. You probably also learned less.

There are lots of things you might be doing to make it worse. To stop bullying and other difficult behaviours it helps for you to be aware of the impact your behaviour is having:



Surpsingly, this can be caused or made worse by your being too positive.

This can be made worse by you not setting clear standards of behaviour and adhering to them.
Poor time management

Can be caused or made worse by you not giving clear priorities, clear deadlines or being poorly organised yourself.
Poor performance

This can be caused by unclear objectives or constantly changing priorities.

Ask yourself if this person behaves satisfactorily for others. Check with them if possible.
Also check as many situations as you can when you get the poor behaviour and ask what they have in common. Check them against the situations when the individual behaves satisfactorily.

An Example
I had a client who despaired with one of her team members who, seemingly at random, did not meet deadlines. When we investigated, it turned out from an analysis of her emails, that the deadlines he had missed where the ones where she had not given a specific time or date. In those cases she had called the task ‘urgent’ or ‘important’.

This was an individual who was very difficult to manage, but with a few changes to what she did, she was able to get him to perform effectively.

Check The Answers To These Questions

  • What happened?
  • How often has this happened?
  • What did X say?
  • What did X do?
  • When did this start?
  • What has changed?
  • How many times has this happened?


  • When does this tend to happen?
  • What did you say?
  • What did you do?

It’s also very useful to look at how others behave towards person X. Sometimes there are people who manage to get the best out of them. You need to find out what they do that’s different to what you are doing, if anything.
I have discovered many useful strategies using this approach.

You’ll find information about specific kinds of difficult behaviour in my book
“Difficult People Made Easy”

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to get people to improve.

Difficult People Made Easy

This is the ultimate guide to dealing with difficult people – plus how to manage them.

The Bestseller by Nancy Slessenger

Dealing with difficult behaviours from colleagues and customers can make your life hell.

  • Do you have to deal with negative people who sap all your energy?
  • Do you work with annoying nit-pickers?
  • Do you have customers who try to bully you or throw temper tantrums?
  • Do you work with people who just can’t make up their minds and then change them anyway?
  • Do you deal with people who burst into tears all the time and are over-emotional?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, this book is for you.
In this straightforward easy-to-follow book you will discover:

  • How to deal with bullies. 34 pages packed with real life examples of what to do and how to do it.
  • Fuss-pots. Those annoying detail-mad people who nit-pick all the time and can’t see the big picture. You find out how to work with them in a way that keeps your sanity.
  • Cry-babies. These are the people who get easily upset at the slightest thing and burst into tears. You can’t have a reasonable conversation with them and it drives you mad. You will discover how to talk to them in a way they will understand and will work for you too.
  • Ditherers. The people who just can’t decide anything and make your life hell. Then when they finally do decide, they change their minds again. If you have to deal with these you’ll find easy ways to get them to make a decision and stick to it.
  • Rhinos. The people who can never take a hint because they are so thick-skinned. You will discover how to get through that tough hide of theirs.
  • Pessimists. The people who are all doom and gloom and pour cold water on all your ideas. They see problems with everything and, for them the glass is always half empty, even when it’s full. You’ll find out how to motivate them and stop them moaning.
  • Negotiating. You will learn the basics of effective negotiation; a key skill when you are dealing with anyone, difficult or not. Understanding this process and how it works will be an invaluable tool in all your dealings.
  • Summary. At the end of each chapter is a summary of what to look out for, what to do and why it works.

The results you can expect when you use the techniques in Difficult People Made Easy

  • Improved performance from difficult people.
  • Less stress.
  • Better results in your dealings with others.
  • An understanding of others in your life.
  • You will be able to handle annoying, frustrating and difficult behaviour.
  • You will be able to deal with bullying.

I’ve worked with people like this and their colleagues for years. I’ve packed this book with all the tools and techniques I’ve learned over the years that really work. It’s full of real examples and I tell you what happened as well as what to do.

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to solve some of these problems that you’ve been putting up with for years.

How many objectives should you have?

Are four objectives enough?

In the book “One Page Talent Management” they advise people should have just four objectives. The reason they give is “an emerging body of research indicates that the more goals an individual has, the more poorly he performs on each.”

There is a saying that all research is either so complicated that hardly anyone can understand it or so obvious that it is something your grandmother told you.
This seems to fall into the latter category.

Are 22 objectives too many?


When people have this many objectives it’s usually because they have gone into too much detail on their objectives.

However, another reason could be this situation I came across recently. A woman had been given a department that was a hotchpotch of what was left over after many cuts and cost-savings. It was not really a department, so she had all kinds of unrelated responsibilities and objectives. (But as she pointed out, at least she still had a job.)

Remind yourself what objectives are really for

Objectives are there to let you know exactly what you need to achieve in order that your organization can achieve its goals.

If you personally need to achieve 22 things for that to happen, then you need 22 objectives. But, if you really do have 22 completely valid objectives it may be that there is a lack of prioritisation at the top.

You need to prioritize

Trying to focus on too many things at once will lead to poor performance. This could just as easily be the poor performance of an organization as that of an individual.
If you have prioritised your 22 objectives so that you can work through them in order, that would be perfectly acceptable. The trouble comes when you ask your manager what the priority is and you are told: “They are all a priority.” In my view this is a manager abdicating his or her responsibilities.

Often, when you get this response, it is because of a similar response from the Mother Ship.

Being able to prioritise is a skill that many lack but for some reason is not often clearly identified.

What they do at Apple

In his fascinating book “Inside Apple” Adam Lashinksy identifies one of the keys to success at Apple as their ability to say “No” to so many good projects. They do this so that they can just focus on a few things and do them really well.

We are told that they have very small project teams that work on just one thing.

Key tips for success

The easiest way to do this is to get laser focus right at the top of your organization.
Then, cascade this down to everyone so they each know what their part in it is.
Make sure you have the objectives prioritized correctly.  You can only prioritize individual’s objectives if they are prioritized right from the top.
When priorities change, let people know straight away how that impacts on what they need to do.

What if I’m too busy to prioritize?

Yes, this can happen to the best of us. Our handy printed booklet Time Management Made Easy will walk you through 124 simple tips and techniques to ensure that you get your life under control and have some time for yourself too. It’s short and to the point so you can quickly find the help you need.

And of course we’ll tell you just what to do in those rare moments when unexpected things crop up and mess up your whole day, so that you can stay calm and effective at all times.

You’ll learn:

  • How to prioritize
  • How to say “No” to extra work politely and, even better, without actually saying “No”
  • How to get rid of that mountain of reading that’s been sitting on your desk for years

In defence of the ‘tick box’ exercise

When I was the business manager of a small industrial design company one of my first tasks was to find out why we were losing money on some jobs and stop the money leaking away.

It didn’t take long to discover what was going on. The problem was mainly due to items being left off the invoice. Simple things like the cost of materials, expensive taxi deliveries and ad hoc extras accounted for most of the missing money.

These oversights were easily remedied with the use of a simple checklist. I added one to each job file and no invoice was allowed to go out till every item on that list was checked.

I can safely say it saved thousands.

An insult

Usually when you refer to a process as a tick-box exercise you mean it as an insult.

The Oxford Dictionaries website tells us that, when you refer to a process as a box-ticking exercise you are “ denoting or relating to a procedure or process carried out purely to satisfy convention, rules, or regulations.”

It also refers to:

  • A bureaucratic tick-box exercise
  • A tick-box mentality

But what is wrong with ticking boxes? Why do we sneer at the process?
Atul Gawnde, in his fascinating (but not for the squeamish) book “The Checklist Manifesto” identifies how checklists can help surgeons to be more effective. (Just checking you have all the instruments you started out with and haven’t left any inside the patient is a great start.)

When I run time management courses we often talk about lists and the joy of ticking tasks off your list. Do you ever find yourself putting something you have already completed on a list purely to give yourself the undiluted pleasure of ticking it off? That smug feeling of just having something on that list that is completed?

Join the club.

It’s not illegal.

In fact having a list to check is a very good idea in many situations.

The importance of the list

The key is to identify things you do that would benefit from a list and then to get the list right. When people talk about ‘tick box exercises’ with derision I think it is an indicator that the list is wrong or is being used incorrectly.

Let’s face it, if you are waiting to take off on a flight across the Atlantic, you probably want your pilot to go through the checklist and make sure every bit of the plane is working correctly (I know I do).


Do you have enough checklists? And are they well thought out?
In fact, if you apply yourself and identify the correct boxes for ticking, you can save yourself a great deal of effort and give yourself time to get on with more exciting things.

Get more time management tips here.

Too busy to work on your objectives?

Keeping the elephants away

A man was in a railway carriage with one other occupant: a young woman. On the seat beside her rested a large bag of ham sandwiches. Every five or ten minutes, she opened the window, took a sandwich from the bag and threw it out of the window.

Keep the elephants away

After the expulsion of three sandwiches, the man asked; “What are you doing?”
“Keeping the elephants away.” Responded the woman in the tone of someone speaking to a rather stupid and annoying small child.
“But there are no elephants.” Pointed out the exasperated man.
“Of course not. The sandwiches keep them away.” Came the smug reply.

Getting the objectives right

A client recently complained to me that he had spent quite some time doing a very thorough job of working out what the business priorities were and agreeing everyone’s objectives, making sure they were all SMART objectives, of course.

Job well done, he sat back expecting the results to roll in.

But that’s not what happened. Unhappily he discovered that most people were far too busy with other important work to spare time for the new objectives.

What’s going on here?

There are two options:

  1. They are working on the wrong stuff
  2. The objectives are wrong

That’s it really. It’s just those two options.

Get help with your objectives

The great bonus scheme

In my very first real job we had an excellent bonus scheme. If we hit the profit target at the end of the year, everyone got a £100 bonus. There was no percentage or weighting, it was the same for all of us.  And it was really clear what had to happen for that bonus to be triggered.

I remember our MD saying: “Only those people who contribute to the profit will get the bonus.” My question was: If they are not contributing, what are they doing here?

Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes there are things that people do that are very much contributing to the overall goals but are almost invisible to others. At other times people are doing things that are not adding any value at all, or perhaps not adding as much value as other things they could be doing.

As a manager, you need to be able to work out which is which.

A big mistake in objectives – not including the ‘day job’

This is one of the biggest and most common mistakes I see in objective and goal setting. For some bizarre reason people think that their normal activities should not be included in their objectives.

It can lead to exactly the issue that my client was faced with.

What your objectives are for

All the objectives need to line up to make sure your goals are achieved

You have objectives so that you know exactly what you personally need to achieve in order for your organization to achieve its goals.

What happens if you get the objectives wrong

The objectives need to be cascaded down from the organizational goals to everyone in the organization.

Your day job is what you are doing to make sure those goals are achieved. If not, what ARE you doing? If you do not include this (which should be the bulk of your work) in your objectives you will end up with all kinds of spurious and strange tasks in there that are not related to the core goals.

On top of this, you will end up in the situation that my client described.

Administrative objectives

Sometimes these objectives can somehow slip off the menu. The trouble with admin is that, when it is done well, it’s invisible. No one notices. This is as it should be. However, the impact of this is that people tend to undervalue and ignore it.

Keeping the database up to date and cleaning the floors may not be very glamorous but they are both extremely important and do contribute to the goals of most organizations. It’s just that you need to put a bit more effort into working out how.

Often easiest way to do this is to imagine what would happen if they were not done.
So sometimes people don’t have time to do the new objectives because what they are working on has been forgotten about by everyone except them.

Get help with your objectives now

Other times, they simply should not be working on whatever it is. It may be no one has let them know that priorities have changed. Or perhaps their objectives were just wrong.