A couple of years ago, I was facilitating an idea generation session with an internal client recently demoted into a marketing management job. We were providing strategic help to develop the marketing plan for his new product line. His unwillingness to productively participate, a refusal to consider anyone else’s ideas, and his negative management style during the idea generation session made it clear there was no assistance he would accept.
"I'm a strategy guy, and I'm here to help you."
The thing is, if it’s within my abilities, I love providing strategic help to someone to do things better and more successfully. As a result, we spent all morning trying one strategic thinking exercise after another to generate new ideas for his product line. It was clear though we were not making progress in providing strategic help to him.
By early afternoon, we huddled with the Marketing VP for the business, and told him we were packing up and ending the idea generation session early since we were obviously wasting his marketing manager’s time with our efforts on his marketing plan. Why bother plodding through a few more hours if there was no helping someone in this situation?
We came back from the break, started pulling down our strategy posters, and said we were done with his marketing plan since we weren't effectively providing strategic help to him. This finally shocked the stubborn marketing manager into paying attention. Suddenly, when he thought he would be in trouble for being stubborn (since his peers were progressing on their business plans through our process), he blurted out he needed help renaming his product line. I refused saying it was clear we weren’t effectively helping him create a marketing plan, and the last thing anyone wanted was to waste his time. He persisted, and we did pull out a naming-oriented idea generation exercise since this was an area in which he would listen to the group assembled to provide marketing plan assistance.
And then, when that idea generation exercise was done, we packed up and left!
How do you tell early on someone isn't going to accept assistance?
While that was a more dramatic situation in which there was no helping someone, it’s a pretty common version of what plays out in organizations daily among leaders with difficult management styles. In fact, I was talking with someone recently about providing assistance to a person displaying a more typical challenging management style: CLAIMING to want help, but behaving in every possible way as if the request for help could not be further from the truth.
These five indicators all suggest to me a client or business associate with a management style who will say they want assistance but is never going to let you help them:
1. Won’t listen to new ideas from anyone.
If someone is resolute about setting their own course of action without any interference (and by “interference,” I mean “reasonable ideas and advice”) from others, there’s only so much you can do. When even solid, strategic ideas are quickly met with arguments, move on.
2. Says one thing and then does another.
When a person says the convenient thing to you or shares something non-confrontational to your face, yet insists on doing what they wouldn’t tell you about directly, their management style doesn't provide a solid foundation from which to offer assistance.
3. Won’t fulfill commitments.
When a person says he or she will do something and then doesn’t, it’s impossible to plan ahead and do your work to help advance their efforts. How can you be expected to deliver for someone whose management style is to not personally deliver for his or her own benefit?
4. Doesn’t meet deadlines.
This is a little like not fulfilling commitments. The difference is the person appears to be working toward an expressed goal and looking for your assistance, but never completes expected deliverable in a timely fashion to synchronize your efforts.
5. Has a history of not working well with others.
When you are trying to help someone that doesn’t work well with others, it can be a sign the person doesn’t want assistance. If someone is burning through a long line of team members and subordinates out of individual or even mutual frustration of trying to work together, it’s often a strong sign someone won’t accept meaningful help from others.
Are you challenged trying to help someone with this management style?
God helps those who help themselves. Not everyone wants your assistance, however, so if you see these types of management style behaviors, you should really question whether the best return on your strategic help efforts would happen with someone else. – Mike Brown
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