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Sorry for the long post everybody - this one has been brewing for a long time. ;-)

[b]BLUF:[/b] I have been trying to use the DiSC cheat sheet to help me work better with a coworker whose style is opposite to mine – but it’s been very frustrating and I’m nearing the end of my rope. I need tips to keep her “umbrella pokes” from annoying me so much, or I need someone to tell me when to cut my losses and fend for myself.

Ahh, it’s the classic story: I’m all D and I and have recently moved into a Team Lead role. My coworker is all S and C, and was hired to perform my old role. I’m not her boss but I’ve been training her for nearly a year as I slowly move into the new role (same group). The transition process has been lengthy and strained for several reasons – but most of the pain can be traced back to weaknesses in either her style or mine (Yes, D’s and I’s have weaknesses too, especially in the eyes of someone high in S/C!).

We are in a very fast-paced, highly complex internet environment that changes rapidly, sometimes without a lot of documentation…and that alone can be stressful for S’s and C’s. Shoot, I typically find change energizing, but my first year in this group nearly broke me. So I do understand that she’s stressed out and feels like she can’t get her footing – I do. If it’s frustrating for someone who loves change, how much more frustrating must it be for someone who doesn’t? Especially when the person training you talks fast, documents in bullet points rather than paragraphs, and gets frustrated when it now takes four one-hour meetings to talk through tasks that used to take 20 minutes.

Another large part of the problem is that when she does get stressed out, she has a pattern of getting downright nasty about it – to the point of berating someone loudly in the cubicle area and accusing them of not caring about their work, setting her up to fail, etc. I’ve worked hard over the past three years to build relationships with people throughout the organization, and three of those people have come to me asking not to work with her on future projects. Another handful have made casual comments like “geez what’s her problem today”? I do resent the fact that she has directed these outbursts at me several times, and I admit that some days it takes a lot of willpower for me to remain professional with. I’m not her manager but I know that she has received feedback about these outbursts at least twice. (And she got an affirming peer feedback from me on a day when I thought an outburst was coming but she controlled herself instead).

Stepping away from the situation a bit, I know that if I use the cheat sheet better, I can grease the wheels a bit – If I just slow down, try to prewire her when change is coming, try to spell out and interpret the impacts of the change in as much detail as I can, that she will feel more secure in the role, and her morale will improve…and probably reduce the likelihood of an outburst too. But quite honestly with my new workload I don’t have the time to do that, plus complete my normal responsibilities, and still have a home life I can be proud of. And deep down I don’t think it would solve anything long-term.

So a large part of me is tired of trying to make things work with her. I try to have empathy, to be a forgiving person and respect how difficult the position is for her, but the fact of the matter is – even without the outbursts – I just don’t feel like she’s in the right role, and I don’t feel like making her happier is really going to have a better effect on the business than if I spend my time on my other core responsibilities. Additionally, it grates me every time I have to do it – because I just can’t forget the way she has treated me in the past. At this point, working to improve her morale decreases mine.

I love all the aspects of this new Team Lead role – I get along well with the rest of the team, even though we are all pretty different, and aside from my relationship with this one person, I’m doing well at the job and want to stay in it.

Do I just need to grow up, suck it up, and continue to try to spoon-feed her what she needs, or do I focus on my other strengths in my new position and let her fail or succeed by her own doing?

WillDuke's picture

[quote]Do I just need to grow up, suck it up, and continue to try to spoon-feed her what she needs, or do I focus on my other strengths in my new position and let her fail or succeed by her own doing?[/quote]
It sure feels like there ought to be some middle ground. :) I can hear your frustration, can she? Have you done your relationship work with her?

How are the O3s going?
How does she take adjusting feedback?
Are you doing any coaching with her?

US41's picture

Sometimes you can't DiSC your way to a better direct. The DiSC is useful for helping you to speak their language - it will not help you make them speak yours. The only way you can be sure that you get your language spoken to you is to give specific direction to your reports about how you want status, etc to roll up to you.

I have reports that do not speak my language. I am a D and I want a dashboard to look at. I want pretty red/yellow/green lights and descriptions with the most important milestones on tasks. I basically get out excel, make a single example row, and tell them to populate it with their projects until it has what I want.

Give your directs specific measurable, time-based objectives to provide you with written status in the format that you prefer that gives you the information you need. My boss had to do it for me to keep me from writing a novel, and I had to do it for my directs as well.

About O3's...

Sometimes two months of O3 meetings will go sour. You did not learn everything you know in a day, and you cannot "fix" a direct in just a week or a couple of weeks. The first few meetings can end up a chaotic mess of your direct spending your time in strange ways.

Drive toward an effective O3 by holding them to their ten minutes and then using yours the way you wanted.

If your direct wants to "do business" during their ten minutes, and you have more than ten minutes of talking about it, call a separate meeting and put it in the parking lot. Ask them to move on. Continue parking anything that is going to take any significant time to discuss.

Sometimes D managers want to solve everything right now, so they try to address everything in the O3, turning it into a 30 minute mess where the direct sends them in circles trying to figure out all of the details in ten minutes. It happens to me every now and then when I forget to park and call another meeting.

At the end of the meeting, if their are tons of meetings to call with them to discuss all of their issues, perhaps you can delegate some of it back to them.

* In your O3, you wanted to know if we could review your projects. Great idea! Please prepare a draft high level project summary and send it to me by tomorrow at 3:00pm. (you look at it, tell them what to change, and have them resubmit)

* In your O3, you wanted to meet to discuss your future. Come to your next O3 prepared to give a 2 minute overview of where you want to be. We'll use the rest of our future development ten minutes to brainstorm ideas as to how to get started on step one.

That's just some examples of ways to keep long-winded details people from owning your O3.

-Rob

Peter.westley's picture

Maura,

You said at the top of your post this is a co-worker, not a direct? So I guess you don't have the opportunity for O3s or for adjusting feedback.

I would suggest that if what you've been trying in meeting her half way with your behavioural change, then don't keep trying the same things expecting different results :-)

You do have opportunity for peer feedback. But I suggest, assuming she really is S/C, what Will said is the right approach.

[quote="WillDuke"]Have you done your relationship work with her? [/quote]

Take it slowly, instead of giving her directions, advice, suggestions (telling) every time you interact with her, start asking questions, then shut up and listen (very hard!). Don't expect to get immediate change. Don't expect to get a result every time you do this. Ask questions, listen for the sake of it. Take an interest in her (and perhaps her frustrations at becoming effective in her new(ish) role.

This, beyond anything else, is what a high S will respond to. It will take time (and remember, given you change the way you interact with her from today, you are starting from day one, not a year into it).

Hope this helps, stay in there!

maura's picture

Thank you everyone for your help on this. Yes Peter, it's one of those grey areas where I'm a team lead who is responsible for group-wide strategic stuff, but she and I report to the same manager.

I've used peer feedback with her, especially affriming feedback, and especially with regards to the role I've been training her into for the past year. I've been hesitant to use adjusting feedback on the interpersonal issues - and guess which part is stressing me out. ;-)

Will, thank you for the perspective. I'm sure there are some days when she hears my frustration, although I try hard to shield her from that. And you're right of course - there's middle ground, which is difficult to see when you feel like there's only a half inch left on a normally long fuse. ;-)Although she's not my direct, I am responsible for continuing to train and guide her... so maybe there's room to do something like an O3 even though I'm not the boss.

US41/Rob - Wow, lots of good takeaways here, thank you! Sounds like if I bite the bullet and start the O3's with her, she will feel heard, we'll build the relationship, and I can slowly work in suggestions on how she might modify her style to get better results.

Is there anything I should modify about the O3 format, given that she's not my direct?

rwwh's picture

I once read a book about compatibility of personalities that helped me a lot before I heard of DiSC. Since the book is in Dutch, I can not refer you to it. I will try to give a short description of the way they look at human properties.Other people may recognize it and refer you to an English language book.

The first consideration is that any good property, when exaggerated, can become a potential bad property.

Take a piece of paper, divide it into 4 quadrants.

Take a good property of yourself. Write it at the top left. Now, exaggerate it, and write the new property at the top right. Invert the second property, and write it at the bottom right. Exaggerate this, and write it at the bottom left.

An example:
[code:1]
direct tactless

sentimental tactful
[/code:1]

The top left is you. The top right they call your "trap": if you are your uncontrolled self, this is what other people may see. The bottom right is your "challenge": a property you could train yourself on. The bottom left is your "allergy": people that show this aspect are people that you may find difficult to deal with.

I have met several people that had my allergies as properties. It had been very difficult to deal with them. Since I have learned to make this analysis it is much easier: you have to realize that what they show is an exaggeration of a property that you lack yourself, but which may be very useful in your team!

tcomeau's picture

[quote="rwwh"]
Take a good property of yourself. Write it at the top left. Now, exaggerate it, and write the new property at the top right. Invert the second property, and write it at the bottom right. Exaggerate this, and write it at the bottom left.

An example:
[code:1]
direct tactless

sentimental tactful
[/code:1]

The top left is you. The top right they call your "trap": if you are your uncontrolled self, this is what other people may see. The bottom right is your "challenge": a property you could train yourself on. The bottom left is your "allergy": people that show this aspect are people that you may find difficult to deal with.
[/quote]

If you buy the online DiSC profile, you get a list of words that describe each style, with the words that describe you highlighted. I've started using that both to identify what other people are, and to see where I'll get into trouble with people.

For example, High-Cs are perfectionist, accurate, diplomatic. Going at them with tactless and sarcastic behaviors will probably not get the response I'd like. I'm a low-S, so I'm frustrated by the status quo. But I have to be patient with High-S's.

The word list alone, with the highlighting, was worth the price of the profile. You can puzzle out the same sort of thing with the MT two-page DiSC cheat sheet. You can find that in the Extra Content of the DiSC podcast series, starting here: http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/03/the-d-in-disc/

tc>

Peter.westley's picture

[b]tcomeau[/b] and [b]rwwh[/b] have an excellent point.

I have found DISC extremely helpful over the years in identifying where my behaviour (which, by definition I feel justified or 'OK' in displaying) is NOT OK with a person with a differing behavioural preference.

Whether you [i][b]feel it or not[/b][/i], listen to the logic and [i][b]believe [/b][/i] that your behaviour is probably coming across as a negative in your relationship.

Then do your best to adjust your behaviour in that area so it's no longer a barrier.