Four Common Types of Difficult Employees And How To Deal With Them

This post is a companion to one or our top Voice America Interviews featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about bad bosses and the impact they have on organizations 

One of the jobs of managers is to create an environment that promotes employee engagement and produces organizational results. Difficult employees adversely impact the team members who work with them. Managers need to find productive ways to address these difficulties or they risk negatively impacting the entire working team. According to a Gallup article published in December 2016, “Compared with disengaged teams, engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents and 41% less absenteeism.” The research clearly suggests that managers who address these difficult employees will produce better organizational results than those who do not.

The following is a guest post written by Jackie Edwards, professional writer experienced in the HR side of finance and banking,. It’s the reality of being an employer that your team might not always be filled with employees who support your vision and work hard for you. At some point you’ll have to deal with a difficult personality in the workplace. As stated in the Journal of Business & Economics, difficult employees can become of the most challenging issues you face, according. Here are four common types of difficult employee that you’ll likely have to come across and tips on how to tackle them effectively.

Dark-Side Dan

This is the employee who’s always negative. When you bring up an exciting project, he’ll tell you why it won’t work. It can be frustrating to deal with someone who’s always raining on everyone’s parade while thinking his way is the only right one. But a good tip is to see him as offering constructive criticism. He might show you the worst-case scenarios of corporate decisions that could help you make the right choice.

But dealing with such a difficult personality can actually be quite straightforward. Hold a meeting with your team and give everyone a chance to talk about their skills and struggles, see what this difficult employee says and coax them for a reply. You want your team members to be vulnerable at times, as it makes for a supportive, cooperative team.

Power-Hungry Pam

This is the employee who wants your job. She’ll take on leadership roles, such as by trying to be seen as holding a position of power with her co-workers, or trying to derail your authority, such as by ignoring your instructions. The best way to deal with highly-ambitious employees is to give them lots of work to do so that they won’t have time to try to manage other workers. Therefore keeping the workplace peace intact.

Mr. Excuse

You asked your employee to have a task completed by the end of the day, but he had something important to do across town or he had to deal with a co-worker’s problem, or he was stuck with a faulty printer. He always has excuses for not doing work or not listening to your instructions. In a global survey of 10,000 adults, 42 per cent confessed to lying about how busy they were at work. Although you might be quick to label this worker lazy, there could be another reason for his annoying behavior. Perhaps they are disastisfied with work? The best thing to do is have an open conversation with him to try to understand where he’s coming from and how you can utilize his best qualities, while minimizing his future games.

The Toddler

The minute this employee doesn’t like something, she’ll lose her cool, make sarcastic comments, or get into fights with co-workers. She also doesn’t deal with constructive criticism, which makes dealing with her a nightmare. If she’s a talented worker you don’t want to lose, remind her that her great work will take her far, but she needs to tone down her defensiveness as managers need to be likeable in order to succeed. Having a real heart-to-heart with this employee will not only show her that you’re willing to support your team members, but it also highlights that you’re after her best interests, which will help her see the error of her ways.

Difficult employees are everywhere, and they might even be part of your team. The key is to know how to tackle them effectively so that you can make use of their skills and decrease workplace drama which negatively impacts everyone’s productivity.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Strengthening Thinking as a Mechanism to Building Resilience

This blog post is the companion to a VoiceAmerica interview with Mark Palmer and Belinda Gore, Building Resilience, A Key Foundation For Change aired August 22, 2017. We encourage you to take our free online resilience assessment.

As the person who curates this blog, I try to balance sharing the work of our radio show guests and other thought leaders with my own opinions. This is one of the weeks where I am sharing my own opinion as it relates to current affairs and the need for resilience.

During the past week, the United States has seen the escalation of threats with North Korea about the use of nuclear weapons and civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, associated with race and hate. Many of us are trying to find a balanced path to respond to what is happening on the global stage, national stage, local stage, and in our own personal lives. Who we are at our core can really shine through during times of challenge when we take care of ourselves first.

I realize this message is a bit counter to cultural beliefs. Most of us were cautioned against selfishness. We were taught to believe that it connotes self-centeredness, and that anything “selfish” is wrong. Yet, having a sense of self and knowing when and how to care for yourself is the antithesis of being selfish. If we don’t care for our-selves, there is no way that we can care for others. I think of the inflight announcements on planes: In the event of an emergency, please put your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” As leaders, we need to attend to our own resilience foundation so we can respond to our environment on a consistent basis in a manner that is consistent with our values.

Let’s do a small exercise, think about a time you pushed yourself to meet a deadline. It may have meant you didn’t get sufficient sleep. You may have been caffeine powered, or maybe augmented by your favorite sugar source (chocolate for me). Can you recall a time you did this and responded to someone more harshly than usual? Did you need to do damage control later? I have an example of one of these incidents early in my career. I wrote an apology note to my boss for harsh words delivered at 3 a.m. while trying to get a project completed and out the door. I left that company and was hired back two years later. My new boss handed me my personnel file and my former boss had saved the note. That event lived on in my “file.” While I think it was more a source of banter, it was not my best professional moment.

We all have these moments of stress-related responses. The challenge for all of us, especially in an environment where civility seems to be in short supply in some circles, is to find our own path to sustain our own sense of balance so that we can be the source of civility when it is lacking in our environment. It is during these times that leadership is most critical.

  1. Take care of your physical well-being. We know insufficient sleep and a poor diet take a toll on us. Do your best to draw boundaries that will allow you to recharge. I do walking meetings when possible so that I can get some physical activity and sunlight during the work day.
  2. Manage your thinking. This one is critical. Research tells us five minutes of negative thinking causes six hours of negative physiological impact on our bodies. I am a strong proponent of mindfulness, just staying aware of what I am thinking and reframing so I can see the positive in challenging situations. I also do scenario planning in which I look at the worst case and plan accordingly; then I feel free to move back to the positive opportunities I want to create in the world. I use the recordings of Gary Weber and Maryanna Klatt as a strong foundation for how I manage my thinking. I have a daily reflection practice that helps me regroup when life feels challenging.
  3. Develop emotional intelligence and a sense of purpose. Emotional intelligence is grounded in our ability to manage our own emotions and respond appropriately to others. For me one of the biggest keys to managing my emotions is to build a routine that allows me to be aware of my emotions and the impact they are having on me. This was one of my weaknesses. I was happy to avoid feeling things and, yet, those feelings still impacted my behavior. When I was unaware of them, the impact could be a negative one (see the earlier reference of the need to apologize to my boss). If we can maintain awareness and metabolize emotions appropriately, we can return our focus to the activities of leading. I don’t mean find better ways to ignore them, I mean working through emotions in a healthy way. For people who will dismiss this as “touchy feely” – don’t discount the impact this skill can have on your ability to stay focused in a positive manner. The other part of this step is to have a sense of purpose that is bigger than yourself and take daily steps toward that purpose—most of them will be small but significant steps.
  4. Build a strong support system. Having a network of caring relationships is invaluable. For some people, the network may be one or two. For others, relationships really do look like a web. There is no formula—what is important is that we have at least one honest and authentic relationship and an outlet to support us. Just knowing and feeling the support of others on the days when everything seems wrong is invaluable. Pets are also a great connection and really are a source of unconditional love.

I would like to close this post with a quote that I got by e-mail today from Part of my resilience practice is to have a regular “diet” of positive information in my life.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” —Barack Obama

So, my invitation to everyone reading this is to do something today that supports your resilience. Doing good for others helps build our own sense of well-being and counterbalances the negativity that we all occasionally and circumstantially face.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Inspiring Leadership and Organizational Evolution: We are Upshifting

I completed my 100th Innovative Leadership interview a couple of weeks ago aired on Voice America on May 30, 2017. In preparation, my host, Dale Meyerrose asked me to reflect on what I had learned and what I put into practice over the past two years—which was likely almost 1,000 hours of prep, interview and follow-up. The challenge was a bit more difficult than I imagined.

Here are a few thoughts about how I got started:

  • I ask listeners each week to experiment with their leadership. What most people don’t know is this show started as an experiment. Tacy Trump, the show’s executive producer called and asked if I wanted to do a show. It was a significant financial investment so I wanted to consider what was involved. Ultimately, I committed to a 3-month pilot. I treated it like a learning experiment with the hypothesis that it would help build on the work I had started with the book series. The show just passed the 100-show milestone, so it moved beyond an experiment. Yet, I continue to experiment with new content, different types of formats and different types of guests as well as build on the current robust group of guests. There were parts of the experiment that I refined because they didn’t work as well as I’d envisioned. If most of what we do can be refined and course corrected, then fear of failure is a much smaller inhibitor.
  • I selected shows that I found interesting with the hope they would be interesting to listeners. Initially, I wanted to find a theme, but it difficult to pin down what that should be. So at the beginning I just went for interesting, informative, and good to work with. It is only in retrospect that I see the theme and I can now parse it into three categories:
    • Strong content that helps people build knowledge such as understanding cyber security and analytics
    • Sharing content that helps listeners translate knowledge into ongoing practices and skills, that help leaders be more effective. Some of the most beneficial skills are mindfulness, resilience, and managing thinking—and improving interactions that help them deliver results.
    • Sharing a broad range of content that helps listeners build wisdom, by listening to shows that may not directly apply on the surface to a specific need, but that build intellectual versatility and wisdom.
  • I also want this show to be used in universities. It would be a shame to not use this robust set of interviews. The leaders who shared their time have offered insights and wisdom. It could be a valuable asset and teaching tool for students and research.
  • There were times I felt like Cinderella, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the ball and interview people whose work I had studied and who were winning lifetime achievement awards. I hope our listeners enjoyed hearing from these people as much as I enjoyed interviewing them.

What did you learn from your guests about leadership?

My biggest take away from these interviews is feeling hopeful. I talked to people from across the world working to solve some of the most complicated and intractable problems. They are making progress and they were willing to share their goals, insights, successes, and learnings with our listeners. Many are conducting action research, doing projects and reporting on the results. Practitioners and researchers are teaming up to provide research-based solutions and are researching new approaches to solve emerging challenges we now face.

One of the concepts that strikes me as I write this is that what sets these people apart is how they demonstrate wisdom in action and their willingness to share that wisdom. So, now the challenge is: How do each of us broaden our wisdom? I hope the shows are part of the many sources in your life that help you build your leadership wisdom.

In addition to having great guests, people are listening! We have listeners in 66 countries and the number of listeners increases monthly. I really wanted to make an impact with this show and if number of listens is an indication of success, we are going in the right direction. I would love to hear from our listeners how this show impacts you!

When I reviewed the interviews, six categories emerged.

  1. Building our resilience and well-being. I start with this section as the foundation because every leader I work with is looking to build his or her capacity to manage the increasing level of complexity and demands in both their personal and professional lives. Leaders across all sectors benefit from a focus on mindfulness, managing thinking, and managing overall health to build the resilience required to navigate the uncertainty and rate of change that is currently present for almost everyone in the world.
  2. Risk Management. The risks we face as organizational leaders have increased and multiplied. We now must respond to challenges that were not as common as recently as 10 years ago. These topics include how to navigate a smear campaign, cyber security, and building a better understanding of the geopolitical environment.
  3. Building knowledge, skill, and perspective. Several of the guests offer information designed to expose listeners to new skills and to rethink what they do, how they do it, and how to refine what they are doing. This category speaks to turning knowledge into skills and includes emotional intelligence, building influence, and telling stories. One of our listener favorites is Mike Morrow-Fox talking about the traits of bad bosses and antidotes for dealing with them.
  4. Becoming a global leader. Sixteen interviews focus on different facets of leading in a global and interconnected environment. These range from learning to manage a multi-cultural workforce to understanding how prejudice impacts leadership effectiveness. George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece talks about his experience leading Greece, and explores how these experiences relate to leadership in our communities and creating a more fair and just world. These interviews were part of the International Leadership Association Conference and the Global Ties conference. While not everyone works in a global organization, most of us are managing a more diverse workforce, have a broader group of clients, and have suppliers and partners from around the globe. A key theme for this group was building bridges to connect with people across a broad spectrum of factors, culture, and ingrained expectations.
  5. Realizing our leadership potential, managing your journey. There are several interviews that focus on identifying individual purpose and principles. The foundation for leaders knowing who they are and leading themselves, including Mike Sayre talking about how he used this self-knowledge to identify which CEO role to take and Paul Pyrz talking about identifying and living in possibility, geared toward young leaders. These interviews serve as the foundation for building the inner capacity and mindset to lead. When we think of the shift toward “Level 5” or strategist leadership, this transition involves an inner shift as the foundation for behavioral change. The conversations with Susan Cannon and Mike Morrow-Fox about Strategist leadership competencies and Leadership 2050 epitomize the goal for leaders to work toward. (It was our first show!)
  6. Creating the capacity to continually evolve organizations. Several interviews focus on how highly effective leaders build their organization’s capacity to evolve continually. They are not just leading a one-time-change initiative, they are building the ability to implement multiple concurrent changes over a period of years. They are transforming their organizations into self-transforming (or evolving) systems. Mike Sayre and Dale Meyerrose talk about navigating the bumps in creating this transformational mindset. Guru Vasudeva talks about implementing Agile and Lean processes and cultures. Joe Gallo talks about shaping companies to navigate industry wide changes. Jim Ritchie Dunham talks about creating vibrant organizations and agreements that serve as the foundation of effective operations in changing times. He also talks about building a team’s capacity to operate at its highest potential rather than the lowest common denominator.

I set out to experiment with hosting a radio show as a mechanism to help leaders develop. Our listeners ultimately determine the success of the shows by their choice to listen. It is insufficient to say that this show has been a learning tool for me. It has given me an amazing opportunity to meet and interview a broad range of organizational, government, nonprofit, and academic leaders. I am more encouraged now than ever before that, as leaders, we can continue to update our leadership “operating system” just like we update our computer software to enable us to meet the challenges we face and create a better world for the generations that follow.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Avoiding Decision Disasters: Integrating the Gut and the Head

This guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Dr. Gleb Tsipursky on May 23, Tools for Avoiding Disastrous Decisions. In the interview and the blog, Gleb explores how we can balance intuition and data based decision making to arrive at the most effective business outcomes. He explores some common misconceptions and offers recommendations to avoid them.

Let’s say you’re interviewing a new applicant for a job and you feel something is off. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you’re a bit uncomfortable with this person. She says all the right things, her resume is great, she’d be a perfect hire for this job – except your gut tells you otherwise.

Should you go with your gut?

In such situations, your default reaction should be to be suspicious of your gut. Research shows that job candidate interviews are actually poor indicators of future job performance.

Unfortunately, most employers tend to trust their guts over their heads and give jobs to people they like and perceive as part of their in-group, rather than simply the most qualified applicant. In other situations, however, it actually does make sense to rely on gut instinct to make a decision.

Yet research on decision-making shows that most business leaders don’t know when to rely on their gut and when not to. While most studies have focused on executives and managers, research shows the same problem applies to doctors, therapists and other professionals.

This is the kind of challenge I encounter when I consult with companies on how to better handle workplace relationships. Research that I and others have conducted on decision-making offers some clues on when we should – and shouldn’t – listen to our gutsThe reactions of our gut are rooted in the more primitive, emotional and intuitive part of our brains that ensured survival in our ancestral environment. Tribal loyalty and immediate recognition of friend or foe were especially useful for thriving in that environment.

In modern society, however, our survival is much less at risk, and our gut is more likely to compel us to focus on the wrong information to make workplace and other decisions.

For example, is the job candidate mentioned above similar to you in race, gender, socioeconomic background? Even seemingly minor things like clothing choices, speaking style and gesturing can make a big difference in determining how you evaluate another person. According to research on nonverbal communication, we like people who mimic our tone, body movements and word choices. Our guts automatically identify those people as belonging to our tribe and being friendly to us, raising their status in our eyes.

This quick, automatic reaction of our emotions represents the autopilot system of thinking, one of the two systems of thinking in our brains. It makes good decisions most of the time but also regularly makes certain systematic thinking errors that scholars refer to as cognitive biases.

The other thinking system, known as the intentional system, is deliberate and reflective. It takes effort to turn on but it can catch and override the thinking errors committed by our autopilots. This way, we can address the systematic mistakes made by our brains in our workplace relationships and other areas of life.

Keep in mind that the autopilot and intentional systems are only simplifications of more complex processes, and that there is debate abouthow they work in the scientific community. However, for everyday life, this systems-level approach is very useful in helping us manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

In regard to tribal loyalty, our brains tend to fall for the thinking error known as the “halo effect,” which causes some characteristics we like and identify with to cast a positive “halo” on the rest of the person, and its opposite the “horns effect,” in which one or two negative traits change how we view the whole. Psychologists call this “anchoring,” meaning we judge this person through the anchor of our initial impressions.

Overriding the gut

Now let’s go back to our job interview example.

Say that the person went to the same college you did. You are more likely to hit it off. Yet, just because a person is similar to you does not mean she will do a good job. Likewise, just because someone is skilled at conveying friendliness does not mean she will do well at tasks that require technical skills rather than people skills.

The research is clear that our intuitions don’t always serve us well in making the best decisions (and, for a business person, bringing in the most profit). Scholars call intuition a troublesome decision tool that requires adjustments to function properly. Such reliance on intuition is especially harmful to workplace diversity and paves the path to bias in hiring, including in terms of race, disability, gender and sex.

Despite the numerous studies showing that structured interventions are needed to overcome bias in hiring, unfortunately business leaders and HR personnel tend to over-rely on unstructured interviews and other intuitive decision-making practices. Due to the autopilot system’s overconfidence bias, a tendency to evaluate our decision-making abilities as better than they are, leaders often go with their guts on hires and other business decisions rather than use analytical decision-making tools that have demonstrably better outcomes.

A good fix is to use your intentional system to override your tribal sensibilities to make a more rational, less biased choice that will more likely result in the best hire. You could note ways in which the applicant is different from you – and give them “positive points” for it – or create structured interviews with a set of standardized questions asked in the same order to every applicant.

So if your goal is to make the best decisions, avoid such emotional reasoning, a mental process in which you conclude that what you feel is true, regardless of the actual reality.

When your gut may be right

Let’s take a different situation. Say you’ve known someone in your work for many years, collaborated with her on a wide variety of projects and have an established relationship. You already have certain stable feelings about that person, so you have a good baseline.

Imagine yourself having a conversation with her about a potential collaboration. For some reason, you feel less comfortable than usual. It’s not you – you’re in a good mood, well-rested, feeling fine. You’re not sure why you’re not feeling good about the interaction since there’s nothing obviously wrong. What’s going on?

Most likely, your intuitions are picking up subtle cues about something being off. Perhaps that person is squinting and not looking you in the eye or smiling less than usual. Our guts are good at picking up such signals, as they are fine-tuned to pick up signs of being excluded from the tribe.

Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe that person is having a bad day or didn’t get enough sleep the night before. However, that person may also be trying to pull the wool over your eyes. When people lie, they behave in ways that are similar to other indicators of discomfort, anxiety and rejection, and it’s really hard to tell what’s causing these signals.

Overall, this is a good time to take your gut reaction into account and be more suspicious than usual.

The gut is vital in our decision-making to help us notice when something might be amiss. Yet in most situations when we face significant decisions about workplace relationships, we need to trust our head more than our gut in order to make the best decisions.

About the Author


Level Five “Strategist” Leadership for Complex Adaptive Groups

Level 5 Strategist Leadership for Complex Adaptive CollectivesThis blog is a companion to the interview with Terri O’Fallon on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 2, 2017, What is A Level 5 / Teal Organization? This post was written by Terri O’Fallon, PhD.

The world is a complex place. We are connected and interconnected in ways from which we can no longer retreat with the Internet, and the contemporary ways that make us visible to every pair of eyes that look our way. So, how do we lead in this interconnected atmosphere that is changing so quickly? When we are continually connected to the internet, how can we know that any one fact in the sea of information we are swimming in every day is even true?

In today’s climate, much truth can come from within you, the leader, by knowing how to engage with the complex adaptable contexts we live in every day.

There are four strategies that support building working environments and systems that can improve a leader’s effectiveness and efficiency as a leader in a complex adaptive team or organization. These four strategies come out of the research from the STAGES developmental model which was derived by integrating developmental approaches related to: 1. our individual beliefs and values, 2. our individual action orientation, 3. the norms and culture of the team or organization and 4. the structural and systemic elements. Using these strategies will not only help leaders achieve their goals, but will make work a pleasure.

  1. Support developmental growth of the people in your organization.

We grow and develop all our lives. However, growth isn’t like climbing stairs to the top. Developmental maturity is more like blowing up a balloon. As a result, one grows and matures in wisdom, intelligence, compassion, and relationships, in addition to skills, and does so one breath at a time. Becoming familiar with these well-documented stages of growth is an important window into the worldviews and beliefs of individuals and how those views shape your organization. Promoting developmental change and understanding how transformation occurs can shatter a hidden glass ceiling that could be stunting the growth of people in your organization who are constrained by current organizational limitations.

  1. Embed goals in ethical principles that you will not sidestep.

Goals are useful targets, but they do not inherently have virtuous results. Part of success is being able to be adaptable with any goal or target as new landscapes come into view. Adapting goals quickly to changing conditions can inhibit unintentional negative side effects in an attempt to keep them alive and operable without adapting. Developing a set of principles that guide your adaptations can keep your revisions within ethical boundaries and enhance the kinds of results you want to achieve in the world. For example, if your principle is transparency, you would know right away if you were hesitant to be forthright about an alteration of a process in action, and upon examination you might discover unconscious underlying reasons for your hesitation in being transparent. Whatever the principles are, they can mold and shape goals and dictate how they are reached as they adapt to changing contexts. By deciding up front a set of principles you will not go outside of, you can quickly make decisions about any variations in your aims and be less apt to cause unintentional harm to others, to society, as well as to the bottom line.

  1. Experiment with small changes and then try them on yourself.

A strategist (level five) leader can stand back and see the systems s/he is working with as well as the organizational environment. This kind of leader can evaluate where the weak links are in the whole of the system and strengthen those places, often in collaboration with others. If the adaptation works you will see positive change in those who work in the organization, and one way you can know that your change is appropriate is if it grows you as well as others. You can experience this by stepping back into the system you have adapted and notice how you experience the change as it applies to you personally and through that lens, how it applies to others.

  1. Work with individual and collective shadow issues.

This is one of the most challenging parts of being a strategist (level five) leader as tested by STAGES. At strategist (level five), people are willing to take personal risks in updating their perception and behaviors, and in addressing organizational inconsistencies. The obvious one at this level is seeing your own projections (getting frustrated by others who have qualities you don’t recognize or acknowledge in yourself). You will know if you are projecting if you catch yourself judging someone or assuming something about someone, and after you reflect at the end of the day on these judgments and assumptions, you may begin to see patterns of behavior in yourself that bother you in others. It helps to write them down and provides you with a tool to evaluate that which you judged in others, in yourself.

The truth is that none of us can’t judge what is in others unless we have that experience also somewhere inside ourselves. For a simple example, when you are driving and someone cuts you off, you may find yourself extremely angry. If you can see your projection, you might ask yourself “Have I ever cut someone off in traffic?” Projecting our judgments is common and we are usually unconscious that we also own the same qualities we find annoying in others.

Identifying projections is very important because in organizations we may be finding fault with others for things we, ourselves, are doing. By identifying the projection, we are able to address our own disruptive behavior and change the relationship with others. After we have addressed our own behavior, we can invite others to do the same.

This approach helps you as a leader find both the challenging and positive capacities in yourself that you don’t see, and helps you see how much you are like others you judge or criticize. This understanding alone can help to build resolution in tense situations that inevitably arise.

These projections permeate most groups or organizations (collectives) . There will frequently be times when there are self-righteous and indignant accusations among people working together, between departments, and between organizations. Over time, unconscious collective agreements become organizational habits that can inhibit creativity and honesty and lead to ineffectiveness. Collective examination and identification of these unconscious, and often limiting, habits can improve effectiveness and benefit the whole of the organization and, potentially, innovation.

These kinds of projections are like putting a rubber band around a tree and then around your waist. You can stretch that rubber band only so far and it will eventually halt or slow progress—or worse, simply snap and throw you back.

We use the STAGES matrix to identify these hidden areas, to find the specific areas that need attention, and to create interventions that are effectively and efficiently targeted for healthy adaptive change.

To learn more about the StAGES model, and Terri’s work, visit Terri’s website, “Developmental Life Design

About the Author

Terri O’Fallon, PhD has focused the last 23 years as an applied researcher, Terri O’Fallon’s focus over two decades has been on “Learning and change in Human Systems”. She has worked with hundreds of leaders studying interventions that most result in developing leaders who can effectively implement change. She has a PhD in Integral Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Terri is, also, the cofounder of two organizations. She and Kim Barta have created Developmental Life Design, an organization that focuses on how the STAGES (developmental) model can support insight into our own growth as people, leaders, guides, and coaches, and how the impact these insights have on our influence in human collectives.

She also partners with Geoff Fitch and Pacific Integral using the STAGES model to develop experiments in collective insight and developmental growth.


Building Wellbeing Builds Effective Leaders

This blog, written by part of a series of blogs as companions to the interview with three renowned experts from The Ohio State University.  Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVS, the dean and Ruth Stanton Chair of Veterinary Medicine in the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).  Second is Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, VP for Health Promotion, University Chief Wellness Officer, Professor and Dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University, and Professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at OSU’s College of Medicine. She’s an internationally recognized expert in evidence-based practice, intervention research, child & adolescent mental health, and health & wellness, and is a frequent keynote speaker at national/international conferences on these topics. Third, Jen Brandt, MSW, LISW-S, PhD, Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation is leading the effort to provide veterinary professionals with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills essential to quality veterinary care, veterinary career success, and life satisfaction on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 4, 2017 focusing on exploring the impact of mental health concerns in the general workplace and or veterinarians and vet students. It is designed to remove the stigma about getting help and equip colleagues and bosses have some idea for addressing it. The participants discuss general data on prevalence of mental health issues within the general population, veterinary data on prevalence of mental health issues within profession and veterinary students and factors to these issues in society in general and finally recommendations to identify issues and address them.

What is wellbeing?

According to Dodge et al., wellbeing is when “individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet a particular psychological, social and/or physical challenge.” 1 Wellbeing includes “…the presence of positive emotions…the absence of negative emotions…satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning.” 2

Why is wellbeing important?

With all of our best intentions, it can be difficult to slow down and tune in to what we need to walk the tightrope between resources and challenges. Our drive to succeed can come at a cost to ourselves and others. We may yearn for simplicity and yet struggle to find it. We rationally understand the importance of balance, yet many of us may be hard pressed at times to achieve it or maintain it. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, however, as wellbeing is associated with numerous individual, family, and community related benefits including decreased risk for injury, illness, or disease; enhanced immune functioning; and increased longevity. Individuals with high levels of wellbeing are more productive and more able to contribute to their communities. 2

A Wellbeing Framework

Wellbeing stems from an interactive relationship between various dimensions of wellness. There is no single perfect plan for wellbeing. Rather, there is an entire spectrum of useful strategies and the optimal plan for one person will likely change over time. What “works” on a given day is dependent on a number of variables including environment, individual preferences, personal accountability, available resources, strengths, interests, and life phase.

The essential skills of being a whole, healthy veterinary professional include intentional integration of the following dimensions: 3

Occupational Wellness

The professionally well person engages in work to gain personal satisfaction and enrichment, consistent with values, goals, and lifestyle.

Intellectual Wellness

The intellectually well person values lifelong learning and seeks to foster critical thinking, develop moral reasoning, expand worldviews, and engage in education for the pursuit of knowledge.

Spiritual Wellness

The spiritually well person seeks harmony and balance by openly exploring the depth of human purpose, meaning, and connection through dialogue and self-reflection.

Social Wellness

The socially well person has a network of support based on interdependence, mutual trust, respect and has developed a sensitivity and awareness towards the feelings of others.

Emotional Wellness

The emotionally well person can identify, express, and manage the entire range of feelings and would consider seeking assistance to address areas of concern.

Physical Wellness

The physically well person gets an adequate amount of sleep, eats a balanced and nutritious diet, engages in exercise for 150 minutes per week, attends regular medical check-ups, limits use of intoxicating substances, and practices safe and healthy sexual relations.

Financial Wellness

The financially well person is fully aware of personal financial states and budgets, saves, and manages finances in order to achieve realistic goals.

Creative Wellness

The creatively well person values and actively participates in a diverse range of arts and cultural experiences as a means to understand and appreciate the surrounding world.

Environmental Wellness

The environmentally well person recognizes the responsibility to preserve, protect, and improve the environment and appreciates the interconnectedness of nature and the individual.

Putting Wellness Into Practice

Exercise One: Raise awareness. Find a quiet location to write about the following:

  • For each dimension of wellness, which do you currently have the resources to adequately meet the challenges?
  • For which dimensions are additional resources needed to adequately meet the challenges?
  • Rank each dimension in the order you value them, with 1 being the highest value to you, and 9 being the least value to you.
  • Reflecting on your rankings, which dimensions receive most of your time, energy, and attention? Which dimensions receive the least? Is there a gap between the dimensions you value the most and the ones that receive most of your time? If so, what are your thoughts about that?
  • If there is a mismatch between the dimensions you value most and the dimensions that receive more of your time and energy, what’s one small step you can take today to bring your values and behaviors into closer alignment?

Exercise Two: Three-Good-Things Writing Exercise

Dr. Martin Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He reports that within 6 months of engaging in this simple habit, you’ll statistically have less depression, less anxiety, and higher life satisfaction. 4

Write down three good things that you experience each day. (You can use the 9 dimensions of wellness as a foundation for the topics you write about). The three things can be small in importance (“I took time to sit down and chew my food. I didn’t multitask during lunch.”) or big (“I decided to hire a business coach!!!”). Next to each positive event, write about one of the following: “What does this mean to you?” “How can you have more of this good thing in the future?” 5

Big changes are the result of many small changes applied consistently over time. So, start small. Monitor what you value the most and where you spend most of your time and energy. When values and behaviors are out of alignment, get curious. Keep a notebook with you and jot down 3 good things each day until it becomes a habit.

About the Author

Jen Brandt, MSW, LISW-S, PhD, Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation is leading the effort to provide veterinary professionals with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills essential to quality veterinary care, veterinary career success, and life satisfaction. Her professional coaching, consultation and interpersonal skills training offer applied learning opportunities to increase self-awareness, improve wellness and resilience, resolve conflict, and enhance veterinary team communication.

She is a nationally and internationally acclaimed guest lecturer at veterinary colleges and conferences and has served as a master trainer and facilitator for the Institute for Healthcare Communication since 2003. She began working with The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 and currently serves as the Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation Services.

  1. Dodge R, Daly A, Huyton J, Sanders L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing. 2012;2(3): 222-235.
  2. Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL). Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. May 27, 2016. Accessed January 2017.
  3. 9 dimensions of Wellness. Student Wellness Center. Office of Student Life. The Ohio State University. Published 2017. Adapted with permission January 2017.
  4. Seligman M. Resilience training for educators. Authentic happiness. University of Pennsylvania. Published 2017. Accessed January 2017.
  5. The PERMA Model: Your scientific theory of happiness. Positive Psychology Program. Published June 19, 2015. Accessed January 2017.

Responding to a Smear Campaign

In an era where people can make assertions about an organization or individual on social media, the topic of brand and reputation has become critical for organizational leaders. While these assertions may be untrue, damage to reputation is real. As the political rhetoric escalates, many companies are concerned. An example of this escalation is when the president of the United States tweeted about Nordstrom’s choice of clothing lines and specifically objected to the choice to terminate the Ivanka Trump line because of sales performance. Companies are now bracing for this type of attack with the same rigor with which they prepare for other business risks.

This blog is part of a series of blogs as companions to the interview with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Dr. Marc Gafni on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on March 21, 2017 focusing on navigating a smear campaign they experienced, respectively, as the board co-chair and the founder of the Center of Integral Wisdom. What emerged was a much more hopeful conversation. They are modeling the behaviors they teach as they confront this challenge, and are working to leverage what would for others be a crippling crisis and share the culture of collaboration and unique contribution to a conscious world. They are talking about an evolution of our culture!

It isn’t always possible to anticipate the range of risks that face an organization, yet prudent business leaders evaluate likely scenarios and create policies and procedures aligned with the probability of the scenario and the risk it poses to the organization. When looking at the risk of a smear campaign, the following are three basic elements that organizations must attend to and an example of how the Center for Integral Wisdom (CIW) responded:

  1. Plan your legal response. It is important to have legal counsel who have expertise in this area. They to advise you on your rights, as well as actions you must avoid.

CIW retained legal counsel and discussed the range of responses from how they approached those who started the campaign to considering the liability of directors and officers. It was critical to evaluate if employees or board members were engaged in any actual wrong-doing so that financial and legal liability could be assessed.

  1. Public relations response. Companies specialize in helping organizations respond to crisiswhen information has been hacked and whose products have been tainted. Now, many of these companies have expanded to advise on possible and actual smear campaigns.

CIW worked very actively to craft a deliberate message that started with 50 messages of support for the CEO (Marc) and for the organization. Over time, the board co-chair (Barbara Marx Hubbard) posted a thorough accounting of the situation as seen from her role on the board. CIW also acted by removing the names of board members from the website to protect them from attacks because there were coordinated public attacks on a broad range of stakeholders from board members to the publisher of Marc’s books.

During this time, Marc and other board members began writing publicly about the smear campaign to help raise awareness of this risk across the community. They wanted to use their experience to educate others. As a think tank, they looked for opportunities to turn this attack into an educational opportunity for the broader community. Marc wrote about being wrongly accused. Numerous articles, such as those written by Lisa Engles, ”How Fake News is Used to Undermine a Leader” and Clint Fuhs, “Anatomy of A Smear: Internet Trial of Marc Gafni”, are great examples.

  1. Employee support and internal communications. Employees are often shocked and in some cases angry or betrayed when their organizations are attacked. It is important that they are given support in managing their personal emotional response (crisis intervention) and are given talking points to respond to family and friends in conversation. Your employees are your first line of defense and they need to feel cared for and come together to support one another and protect the organization so it can continue to meet its mission during difficult times.

CIW, at its core, is a spiritual organization as well as a think tank. Marc is a rabbi. While this barrage of public attacks was personal and ugly, Marc was surrounded by a group of people who believed in him as a person and as a leader. While some distanced themselves, others stepped forward. He took time for personal introspection and renewal. He talked to his board and his staff about his mistakes and about how he was leveraging this opportunity to make a stand for treating everyone with respect and decency. To be clear, Marc like all humans has faults, yet these accusations were false. They were also personal and should have been handled privately between Marc and those who felt wronged.

I had several personal take-aways from this experience. As I make these recommendations, it would be hypocritical of me to do so without saying I have fallen short in each area and have put myself at risk.

  1. We all make mistakes (some certainly more public than others). The quality of the person is demonstrated by his or her response when mistakes are made public.
  2. It is important to strive to live a life that is above reproach. The adage, “Would you be okay if this action showed up on the cover of the newspaper for your family to read?” is always something to consider.
  3. Restore the balance. We all have misunderstandings and it is important to find a path forward to restore a semblance of civility as quickly as possible. Again, I realize this is completely aspirational and I have gone for extended periods of time with little to no communication with people who are very important to me while I worked on my own issues related to the relationship.
  4. Extend grace and compassion to others that we would like to receive if we were in their shoes. I can say from my experiences, I have made mistakes I am embarrassed by and I grew from all of them. I moved forward largely because people who cared about me forgave me and supported me despite my fallibility. I can also say that people close to me have held me accountable for cleaning up my messes. Extending compassion and grace doesn’t imply there are no consequences—rather, it means working together to fix what was damaged.

As leaders, we find ourselves navigating an increasingly complex world. We do our best to balance competing commitments and satisfy as many people as possible; however, most of us fall short on occasion. It is what we learn from the process that enables us to grow and help others grow.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook series and the co-author of the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to


Please note: I will only approve comments on this post that are constructive in nature. I will not perpetuate negativity and smearing behavior. While we promote different perspectives, they must be framed in a manner that promotes solutions to challenges and not framed as personal attacks damaging people involved in the process.

Leveraging Generational Differences to Improve Organizational Success (Infographic)

This post, written by Megan Wilson and, is a companion to the March 8, 2016 VoiceAmerica interview with Cam Marsden, Leveraging Generational Differences to Improve Organizational Success? If you have questions about working with a team that spans generations and producing a great work environment and exceptional results, this post and interview will help you enhance your approach.

Think about an interaction you’ve had with a younger person in your workplace. They may like to avoid face-to-face meetings and instead tell you about issues or solutions via social media or their smart devices. Older people, on the other hand, would prefer sitting down in a meeting with you and in fact may be adverse to these more impersonal interactions. That’s just one example of the wide range of personalities and preferences that you’re likely to find in a workplace. You may have people born in the 1920s and you may have people born in the late 1990s. They come to the workplace influenced by the world around them—technology, societal events, even what’s been happening in the economy. To learn more about generations at work, use this graphic.

The following image is intended to provide you with insight about some of the differences across generations and offer recommendations to leverage the strengths of each group. While we as humans are very complex beings that can’t be defined exclusively by age, gender or nationality, this type of information serves as a starting point in learning about our colleagues. While categorization can be dangerous if unexamined, it is a useful place to start building awareness and sensitivity to others. Beyond the general recommendations provided in this post, we recommend refining your approach by asking colleagues about their preferences where possible.

Click To Enlarge

Unique Skills in Each Generation That Employers Need

Via AkkenCloud


We Choose How We Lead – What Do You Choose?

bennisparachuteThis guest post by Paul Pyrz, President of LeaderShape. This is an excerpt from the forward Paul wrote for the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers where Paul talks about the importance of developing emerging leaders. Paul is featured in the November 8 Interview focusing on how leaders live in possibility with Maureen Metcalf on VoiceAmerica

“Leadership is a choice.” – Warren Bennis 

This quote by Warren Bennis, widely known as a leadership author and leader in higher education, is my favorite. Hands down. It is simple, eloquent, easy to remember. And right. Clearly, this is my opinion, but as someone who has read and heard numerous quotes on leadership throughout my life, I keep coming back to this.

We have many choices to make in our lives. We can choose our career, our partner, our attitude, our dinner option, but perhaps there is no more important choice to make in our lives than how we are going to make a difference with the limited time we have on this planet. Far too many of us choose to live lives of insignificance and mediocrity because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, or as even having the capability to make a difference in our communities much less our own lives. So we bounce from day to day without purpose or passion.

I have used this quote from Bennis quite often in my work leading a not-for-profit organization in an attempt to de-mystify the concept of leading. In attempts to define it, we have made leading far too complicated. I have been keeping a list of all the books on leadership that have thrown another adjective in front of “leadership” to sell their version of it. Ultimate leadership. Super leadership. Principled leadership. My favorites being liquid leadership, food leadership (seriously), and boot strap leadership. Go ahead, look for them on Amazon, or in the bookstore. They are there.

A good question to ask is, “Why are there so many books out there on leadership?” Other than because it is a popular topic and people want to make money by window dressing their own version of leadership, I can think of only one other connected reason: People want to understand leadership.

They want to see how it’s defined and how to “do” it. So, they buy the books. We need leaders. We need them now more than ever. We long to be led. Really led. I don’t care as much about the number of followers that a leader has as much as I want to see people using their lives to pursue something that they are passionate about and choosing to make the world a better place in a small (or large) way.

I am passionate about helping young people connect with the idea that they can lead. Not because they have a title next to their names, but because they have a passion, skill, or talent that the world needs, and they just haven’t realized it yet. That is where the concept of emerging leaders comes into play. We need to do more to help leaders emerge, help young people, in particular, figure out that they can lead and know that we need them to lead. They don’t have to be in front of the room, but they need to participate in the room. They don’t need the title, but they need to act like they have it. They don’t need followers, but they need to do something that is worth following. They need the patience to plant seeds, try new ideas, and fail miserably.

Emerging leaders need our support, our encouragement, and our willingness to set them loose and figure it out on their own. We cannot weigh them down with the ideas of the past and how past generations saw leadership. They need to make their own meaning of the concept and wrestle in the mud with hard conversations that produce hard solutions. They need us to get out of their way and give them room to grow with their own understanding and vision. They need a guide, not a prescription.

Jim Collins said that the enemy of great is being good, and that is precisely why we have so few things and institutions that are truly great. We need to push, we need to engage, and we need to help others realize that they, too, have the capability to lead. And then we can only hope that they choose to lead.

Enjoy the journey.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Building Leadership Success- Using Assessment Results to Increase Effectiveness

This Leadership developmentblog is a companion to the interview series with Christopher and Sheila Cooke on the VoiceAmerica Business Leadership show “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.” This four-part series, “Leaders Building Self-Awareness by Stepping Through the Worldview Membrane: Learning to Engage Your Organization,” begins July 12. The second interview is a conversation that talks about spotting the patterns, talking to two accomplished leaders who took the LeaderView Assessment about their results and how to interpret them to build on their success. This conversation includes a discussion on how their specific data helps them discover their leadership strengths and biases.

As we listen to the leaders, Carla and Jim talk about their development goals, I wanted to provide companion information to leaders who are following along. If you take the LeaderView Assessment, you will receive an interpretation manual as part of the package. Following is the development process we use in the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Workbook series.

Innovative Leadership development process

Research since the late 1970’s has shown that such biases are actually the basis of your leadership strengths. Through a process of assessment and self-discovery, leaders build self-awareness, learn what it means to step through the worldview membrane, and learn how to dramatically increase engagement in their organisations.

After taking the LeaderView Assessment, and others you might find valuable such as the Metcalf & Associates assessments for resilience and innovative leadership, along with integrating information from other sources such as performance appraisals it is time to synthesize what you have learned about yourself. We recommend using a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats worksheet (SWOT) shown below. We invite you to complete your own SWOT analysis. Keep in mind that your strengths and weaknesses tie back to your vision for yourself from last week’s post.



What sets you apart from most other people?


What opportunities are open to those who have these strengths? How do these strengths enable me to accomplish my vision?




What do you need to improve to accomplish my vision?


Do you have weaknesses that need to be addressed before you can move forward?   Do any of these pose an immediate threat such as losing your job? Do any of them pose a threat to me accomplishing my vision?




We are very excited to share the step by step process using the LeaderView assessment and feedback with you, our readers and listeners. You can now get the value of the expert coaching of Christopher and Sheila and also listen into two very accomplished leaders. To take the LeaderView Assessment, just log onto the site created for the show and purchase the assessment to follow along. You will get an interpretation and planning manual also. The assessment cost including 2 participants giving 360 feedback is $40.80 which is a 20% discount off the normal rate. You can also learn more about the show layout at the website.

What do your assessment results tell you about yourself? This assessment and evaluation process is designed to help you increase your self-awareness and enable you to more accurately identify opportunities your strengths provide as well as development requirements for areas that are either weaknesses or threats. These results along with your answers to reflection questions provided in the next blog post in this series serve as the foundation for your development plan.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.


In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.