Dealing with Difficult People - Part 6

I worked with a guy who had left the military after 25 years and gone to work in a financial institution. We were working on some Lean Six Sigma improvements. They were well received in some quarters and not in others. He often said he missed the military because you could give an order and people would follow it. In the corporate world, you had to woo cooperation, not command it.

Leaders and Followers

The military hierarchy is a clear example of Leaders and Followers: you follow the leaders above you and direct the people below you.

  • Leaders take in information and decide for themselves what to do. 
  • Followers want to be told what to do.

The world needs both leaders and followers, otherwise we'd have anarchy. What I find is that leaders expect followers to take in information and decide for themselves. Followers expect leaders to tell them what to do. It creates a lot of conflict.

There's a simple question to help you determine if someone is a leader or a follower. Ask: "How do you know you've done a good job ?

  • A Leader will say: "I just know!"
  • A Follower will say: "People tell me."

It's that easy!

The Language of Connection, Not Conflict

Once you know if someone is a leader or a follower, you can connect with them more easily by using their language.

  Influencing Language


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If you are trying to influence your boss: "I know it seems like people cause most of our problems and you might consider this new and improved Lean Six Sigma approach to preventing problems."

If you are trying to influence your spouse: "Honey, you might consider going to Hawaii for vacation this year. They have some great deals. Would you like to read the brochures?"

If you are trying to influence a follower, just tell them what you want them to do.

Get the idea? 1,000s of people have learned how to use these simple questions and influencing language to change their results, but only you can decide if they are right for you.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008-2024 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, 888-468-1537, ."