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Program Management, Shaping Software, and Making Things Happen
Updated: 7 hours 4 min ago

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 16:46

“If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together” – African Proverb

I blew the dust off some olds posts to rekindle some of the most important information for work and life.

It’s about dealing with people you can’t stand.

Whether you think of them as jerks, bullies, or just difficult people, the better you can deal with difficult people, the better you can get things done and make things happen.

And the more you learn how to bring out the best, in people at their worst, the less you’ll find people you can’t stand.

How To Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Including Yourself)

Everything I needed to learn about dealing with difficult people, I learned from the book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

It’s one of the most brilliant, thoughtful books I’ve ever read on interpersonal skills and dealing with all sorts of bad behaviors.

The real key to dealing with difficult behavior is more than just recognizing bad behaviors in other people.

It’s recognizing bad behaviors in yourself, the kind that contribute to and amplify other people’s bad behaviors.

The more you know, the more you grow, and this is truly one of those transformational books.

Learn How To Deal with Difficult People (and Gain Some Mad Interpersonal Skills)

I’ve completely re-written my pot that provides an overview of the big ideas in Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Even better, I’ve re-written all of my posts that talk through the 10 Types of Difficult People, and what to do about them.

I have to warn you:  Once you learn the 10 Types of Difficult People, you’ll be using the labels to classify bad behaviors that you experience in the halls, in meetings, behind your back, etc.

With that in mind, here they are …

10 Types of Difficult People

Here are the 10 Types of Difficult People at a glance:

  1. Grenade Person – After a brief period of calm, the Grenade person explodes into unfocused ranting and raving about things that have nothing to do with the present circumstances.
  2. Know-It-Alls – Seldom in doubt, the Know-It-All person has a low tolerance for correction and contradiction. If something goes wrong, however, the Know-It-All will speak with the same authority about who’s to blame – you!
  3. Maybe Person – In a moment of decision, the Maybe Person procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself.
  4. No Person – A No Person kills momentum and creates friction for you. More deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, more powerful than hope, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable.
  5. Nothing Person – A Nothing Person doesn’t contribute to the conversation. No verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback, Nothing. What else could you expect from … the Nothing Person.
  6. Snipers – Whether through rude comments, biting sarcasm, or a well-timed roll of the eyes, making you look foolish is the Sniper’s specialty.
  7. Tanks – The Tank is confrontational, pointed and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior
  8. Think-They-Know-It-Alls – Think-They-Know-It-All people can’t fool all the people all the time, but they can fool some of the people enough of the time, and enough of the people all of the time – all for the sake of getting some attention.
  9. Whiners – Whiners feel helpless and overwhelmed by an unfair world. Their standard is perfection, and no one and nothing measures up to it.
  10. Yes Person – In an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, Yes People say “yes” without thinking things through.

I warned you.  Are you already thinking about some Snipers in a few meetings that you have, or is there a Yes Person driving you nuts (or are you that Yes Person?)

Have you talked to a Think-They-Know-It-All lately, or worse, a Know-It—All?

Never fear, I’ve included actionable insights and recommendations for dealing with all the various bad behaviors you’ll encounter.

The Lens of Human Understanding

If all this talk about dealing with difficult people, and having silly labels seems like a gimmick, it’s not.  It’s actually deep insight rooted in a powerful, but simple framework that Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner refer to as the Lens of Human Understanding:

The Lens of Human Understanding

Once I learned The Lens of Human Understanding, so many things fell into place.

Not only did I understand myself better, but I could instantly see what was driving other people, and how my behavior would either create more conflict or resolve it.

But when you don’t know what makes people tick, it’s very easy to get ticked off, or to tick them off.

Here’s looking at you … and other people … and their behaviors … in a brand new way.

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Inspirational Quotes, Inspirational Life Quotes, and Great Leadership Quotes

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 05:51

I know several people looking for inspiration.

I believe the right words ignite or re-ignite us.

There is no better way to prime your mind for great things to come than filling your head and hear with the greatest inspirational quotes that the world has ever known.

Of course, the challenge is finding the best inspirational quotes to draw from.

Well, here you go …

3 Great Inspirational Quotes Collections at Your Fingertips

I revamped a few of my best inspirational quotes collections to really put the gems of insight at your fingertips:

  1. Inspirational Quotes – light a fire from the inside out, or find your North Star that pulls you forward
  2. Inspirational Life Quotes -
  3. Great Leadership Quotes – learn what great leadership really looks like and how it helps lifts others up

Each of these inspirational quotes collection is hand-crafted with deep words of wisdom, insight, and action.

You'll find inspirational quotes from Charles Dickens, Confucius, Dr. Seuss, George Bernard Shaw, Henry David Thoreau, Horace, Lao Tzu,  Lewis Carroll, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Oscar Wilde, Paulo Coelho, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stephen King, Tony Robbins, and more.

You'll even find an inspirational quote from The Wizard of Oz (and it’s not “There’s no place like home.”)

Inspirational Quotes Jump Start

Here are a few of my favorites inspirational quotes to get you started:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

Mary Anne Radmacher

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss

“It is not length of life, but depth of life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away.”

Anonymous

“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”

Coco Chanel

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

George Eliot

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

These inspirational quotes are living breathing collections.  I periodically sweep them to reflect new additions, and I re-organize or re-style the quotes if I find a better way.

I invest a lot of time on quotes because I’ve learned the following simple truth:

Quotes change lives.

The right words, at the right time, can be just that little bit you need, to breakthrough or get unstuck, or find your mojo again.

Have you had your dose of inspiration today?

Categories: Blogs

Leadership Skills for Making Things Happen

Sat, 06/20/2015 - 21:48

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." -- John C. Maxwell

How many people do you know that talk a good talk, but don’t walk the walk?

Or, how many people do you know have a bunch of ideas that you know will never see the light of day?  They can pontificate all day long, but the idea of turning those ideas into work that could be done, is foreign to them.

Or, how many people do you know can plan all day long, but their plan is nothing more than a list of things that will never happen?  Worse, maybe they turn it into a team sport, and everybody participates in the planning process of all the outcomes, ideas and work that will never happen. (And, who exactly wants to be accountable for that?)

It doesn’t need to be this way.

A lot of people have Hidden Strengths they can develop into Learned Strengths.   And one of the most important bucket of strengths is Leading Implementation.

Leading Implementation is a set of leadership skills for making things happen.

It includes the following leadership skills:

  1. Coaching and Mentoring
  2. Customer Focus
  3. Delegation
  4. Effectiveness
  5. Monitoring Performance
  6. Planning and Organizing
  7. Thoroughness

Let’s say you want to work on these leadership skills.  The first thing you need to know is that these are not elusive skills reserved exclusively for the elite.

No, these are commonly Hidden Strengths that you and others around you already have, and they just need to be developed.

If you don’t think you are good at any of these, then before you rule yourself out, and scratch them off your list, you need to ask yourself some key reflective questions:

  1. Do you know what good actually looks like?  Who are you role models?   What do they do differently than you, and is it really might and magic or do they simply do behaviors or techniques that you could learn, too?
  2. How much have you actually practiced?   Have you really spent any sort of time working at the particular skill in question?
  3. How did you create an effective feedback loop?  So many people rapidly improve when they figure out how to create an effective learning loop and an effective feedback loop.
  4. Who did you learn from?  Are you expecting yourself to just naturally be skilled?  Really?  What if you found a good mentor or coach, one that could help you create an effective learning loop and feedback loop, so you can improve and actually chart and evaluate your progress?
  5. Do you have a realistic bar?  It’s easy to fall into the trap of “all or nothing.”   What if instead of focusing on perfection, you focused on progress?   Could a little improvement in a few of these areas, change your game in a way that helps you operate at a higher level?

I’ve seen far too many starving artists and unproductive artists, as well as mad scientists, that had brilliant ideas that they couldn’t turn into reality.  While some were lucky to pair with the right partners and bring their ideas to live, I’ve actually seen another pattern of productive artists.

They develop some of the basic leadership skills in themselves to improve their ability to execute.

Not only are they more effective on the job, but they are happier with their ability to express their ideas and turn their ideas into action.

Even better, when they partner with somebody who has strong execution, they amplify their impact even more because they have a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes to execute ideas.

Like talk, ideas are cheap.

The market rewards execution.

Categories: Blogs

Startup Thinking

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 19:36

“Startups don't win by attacking. They win by transcending.  There are exceptions of course, but usually the way to win is to race ahead, not to stop and fight.” -- Paul Graham

A startup is the largest group of people you can convince to build a different future.

Whether you launch a startup inside a big company or launch a startup as a new entity, there are a few things that determine the strength of the startup: a sense of mission, space to think, new thinking, and the ability to do work.

The more clarity you have around Startup Thinking, the more effective you can be whether you are starting startups inside our outside of a big company.

In the book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel shares his thoughts about Startup Thinking.

Startups are Bound Together by a Sense of Mission

It’s the mission.  A startup has an advantage when there is a sense of mission that everybody lives and breathes.  The mission shapes the attitudes and the actions that drive towards meaningful outcomes.

Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

“New technology tends to come from new ventures--startups.  From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild Semiconductor's ‘traitorous eight’ in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better.  The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it's even harder to do it by yourself.  Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk.” 

Signaling Work is Not the Same as Doing Work

One strength of a startup is the ability to actually do work.  With other people.  Rather than just talk about it, plan for it, and signal about it, a startup can actually make things happen.

Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).  At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but he could never create an entire industry.  Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.”

New Thinking is a Startup’s Strength

The strength of a startup is new thinking.  New thinking is even more valuable than agility.  Startups provide the space to think.

Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

“Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future.  A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.  This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking.  Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.”

Do you have stinking thinking or do you beautiful mind?

New thinking will take you places.

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Visionary Leadership: How To Be a Visionary Leader (Or at Least Look Like One)

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 16:41

“Remember this: Anticipation is the ultimate power. Losers react; leaders anticipate.” – Tony Robbins

Have you ever noticed how some leaders have a knack for "the art of the possible" and for making it relevant to the current landscape?

They are Visionary Leaders and they practice Visionary Leadership.

Visionary Leaders inspire us and show us how we can change the world, at least our slice of it, and create the change we want to be.

Visionary Leaders see things early and they connect the dots.

Visionary Leaders luck their way into the future.  They practice looking ahead for what's pertinent and what's probable.

Visionary Leaders also practice telling stories.  They tell stories of the future and how all the dots connect in a meaningful way.

And they put those stories of the future into context.  They don't tell disjointed stories, or focus on flavor-of-the-month fads.  That's what Trend Hoppers do.

Instead, Visionary Leaders focus on meaningful trends and insights that will play a role in shaping the future in a relevant way.

Visionary leaders tell us compelling stories of the future in a way that motivates us to take action and to make the most of what's coming our way.

Historians, on the other hand, tell us compelling stories of the past.

They excite us with stories about how we've "been there, and done that."

By contrast, Visionary Leaders win our hearts and minds with "the art of the possible" and inspire us to co-create the future, and to use future insights to own our destiny.

And Followers, well, they follow.

Not because they don't see some things coming.  But because they don't see things early enough, and they don't turn what they see into well-developed stories with coherence.

If you want to build your capacity for vision and develop your skills as a Visionary Leader, start to pay attention to signs of the future and connect the dots in a meaningful way.

With great practice, comes great progress, and progressing even a little in Visionary Leadership can make a world of difference for you and those around you.

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Goofy Innovation Techniques

Sun, 05/31/2015 - 20:37

If your team or company isn’t thriving with innovation, it’s not a big surprise.

In the book, Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs, Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn explain what holds innovation back.

Goofy innovation techniques are at least one part of the puzzle.

What holds innovation back is that many people still use goofy innovation techniques that either don’t work in practice, or aren’t very pragmatic.  For example “brainstorming” often leads to collaboration fixation.

Via Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs:

“Part of the Innovation Revolution is rooted in superior tradecraft: better ways to innovate that are suited for tougher problems.  Yet most teams are stuck using goofy techniques that have been discredited long ago.  This book is part of a new vanguard, a small group of leading thinkers who see innovation as urgent and essential, who know it needs to be cracked as a deep discipline and subjected to the same rigors as any other management science.”

The good news is that there are many innovation techniques that do work.

If you’re stuck in a rut, and wondering how to get innovation going, then abandon the goofy innovation techniques, and cast a wider net to find some of the approaches that actually do.   For example, Dr. Tony McCaffrey suggests “brainswarming.”  (Here is a video of brainswarming.)  Or check out the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, for a pragmatic approach to strategic market disruption.

Innovate in your approach to innovation.

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Are You an Integration Specialist?

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 19:40

Some people specialize in a narrow domain.  They are called specialists because they focus on a specific area of expertise, and they build skills in that narrow area.

Rather than focus on breadth, they go for depth.

Others focus on the bigger picture or connecting the dots.  Rather than focus on depth, they go for breadth.

Or do they?

It actually takes a lot of knowledge and depth to be effective at integration and “connecting the dots” in a meaningful way.  It’s like being a skilled entrepreneur or a skilled business developer.   Not just anybody who wants to generalize can be effective.  

True integration specialists are great pattern matchers and have deep skills in putting things together to make a better whole.

I was reading the book Business Development: A Market-Oriented Perspective where Hans Eibe Sørensen introduces the concept of an Integrating Generalist and how they make the world go round.

I wrote a post about it on Sources of Insight:

The Integrating Generalist and the Art of Connecting the Dots

Given the description, I’m not sure which is better, the Integration Specialist or the Integrating Generalist.  The value of the Integrating Generalist is that it breathes new life into people that want to generalize so that they can put the bigger puzzle together.  Rather than de-value generalists, this label puts a very special value on people that are able to fit things together.

In fact, the author claims that it’s Integrating Generalists that make the world go round.

Otherwise, there would be a lot of great pieces and parts, but nothing to bring them together into a cohesive whole.

Maybe that’s a good metaphor for the Integrating Generalist.  While you certainly need all the parts of the car, you also need somebody to make sure that all the parts come together.

In my experience, Integration Generalists are able to help shape the vision, put the functions that matter in place, and make things happen.

I would say the most effective Program Managers I know do exactly that.

They are the Oil and the Glue for the team because they are able to glue everything together, and, at the same time, remove friction in the system and help people bring out their best, towards a cohesive whole.

It’s synergy in action, in more ways than one.

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Task Management for Teams

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 17:01

I’m a fan of monthly plans for meaningful work.

Whether you call it a task list or a To-Do list or a product backlog, it helps to have a good view of the things that you’ll invest your time in.

I’m not a fan of everybody trying to make sense of laundry lists of cells in a spreadsheet.

Time changes what’s important and it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, among rows of tasks that all start to look the same.

One of the most important things I’ve learned to do is to map out work for the month in a more meaningful way.

It works for individuals.  It works for teams.  It works for leaders.

It’s what I’ve used for Agile Results for years on projects small and large, and with distributed teams around the world.  (Agile Results is my productivity method introduced in Getting Results the Agile Way.)

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s just look at a sample output and then I’ll walk through it:

clip_image002

What I’ve found to be the most effective is to focus on a plan for the month – actually take an hour or two the week before the new month.  (In reality, I’ve done this with teams of 10 or more people in 30 minutes or less.  It doesn’t take long if you just dump things fast on the board, and just keep asking people “What else is on our minds.”)

Dive-in at a whiteboard with the right people in the room and just list out all the top of mind, important things – be exhaustive, then prioritize and prune.

You then step back and identify the 3 most important outcomes (3 Wins for the Month.)

I make sure each work item has a decent name – focused on the noun – so people can refer to it by name (like mini-initiatives that matter.)

I list it in alphabetical by the name of the work so it’s easy to manage a large list of very different things.

That’s the key.

Most people try to prioritize the list, but the reality is, you can use each week to pick off the high-value items.   (This is really important.  Most people spend a lot of time prioritizing lists, and re-prioritizing lists, and yet, people tend to be pretty good prioritizing when they have a quick list to evaluate.   Especially, if they know the priorities for the month, and they know any pressing events or dead-lines.   This is where clarity pays off.)

The real key is listing the work in alphabetical order so that it’s easy to scan, easy to add new items, and easy to spot duplicates.

Plus, it forces you to actually name the work and treat it more like a thing, and less like some fuzzy idea that’s out there.

I could go on and on about the benefits, but here are a few of the things that really matter:

  1. It’s super simple.   By keeping it simple, you can actually do it.   It’s the doing, not just the knowing that matters in the end.
  2. It chops big work down to size.   At the same time, it’s easy to quickly right-size.  Rather than bog down in micro-management, this simple list makes it easy to simply list out the work that matters.
  3. It gets everybody in the game.   Everybody gets to look at a whiteboard and plan what a great month will look like.  They get to co-create the journey and dream up what success will look like.   A surprising thing happens when you just identify Three Wins for the Month.

I find a plan for the month is the most useful.   If you plan a month well, the weeks have a better chance of taking care of themselves.   But if you only plan for the week or every two weeks, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and the next thing you know, the months go by.  You’re busy, things happen, but the work doesn’t always accrue to something that matters.

This is a simple way to have more meaningful months.

I also can’t say it enough, that it’s less about having a prioritized list, and more about having an easy to glance at map of the work that’s in-flight.   I’m glad the map of the US is not a prioritized list by states.  And I’m glad that the states are well named.  It makes it easy to see the map.  I can then prioritize and make choices on any trip, because I actually have a map to work from, and I can see the big picture all at once, and only zoom in as I need to.

The big idea behind planning tasks and To-Do lists this way is to empower people to make better decisions.

The counter-intuitive part is first exposing a simple view of the map of the work, so it’s easy to see, and this is what enables simpler prioritization when you need it, regardless of which prioritization you use, or which workflow management tool you plug in to.

And, nothing stops you from putting the stuff into spreadsheets or task management tools afterwards, but the high-value part is the forming and storming and conforming around the initial map of the work for the month, so more people can spend their time performing.

May the power of a simple information model help you organize, prioritize, and optimize your outcomes in a more meaningful way.

If you need a deeper dive on this approach, and a basic introduction to Agile Results, here is a good getting started guide for Agile Results in action.

Categories: Blogs