Flex Challenging People picWhatever business you’re in – manufacturing, professional services, health, hospitality, whatever – everything you do depends on people.  No matter how fantastic your product is or how innovative your ideas are, your company success is directly linked to the performance of the people who create, produce, market and deliver it.

Of course, the term “people” actually refers to lots of unique individuals, each with their own personalities, strengths, issues and agendas.  And regardless of how amazing your tried-and-true style of leadership or management is, you’re probably not successful with everyone.

To help you be effective with a greater range of people, we’ve developed a system called FLEX.  Instead of shifting the attitude or behaviour of others, FLEX shows you how to adjust your actions in order to reach your goal.

Fundamental to the process of being FLEX-ible is to understand what the other person is “saying”: YES, NO, MAYBE, YES BUT, or NO OK.  It’s not hard to figure this out because it all comes down to one question – if you ask them to do something, what happens?

  • People who say YES usually do it right away.
  • People who say NO either don’t do it, ignore you, or become argumentative.
  • People who say MAYBE will sometimes do it, and other times not – it depends.
  • People who say YES BUT tell you they’d like to do it but then come up with a million reasons why they can’t.
  • People who say NO OK initially refuse to do what you’ve asked, but then eventually comply.

These responses aren’t necessarily a fixed or permanent personality feature.  People can change what they’re saying depending on what you’re asking them to do, the situation, or who’s involved.

The next step is to understand why they are saying what they are.  Sometimes they have a unique reason, or they might conform to typical categories of saying YES, NO, MAYBE, YES BUT, or NO OK.

Once you know what someone is saying and why they are saying it, you can adjust how you work with them, using techniques that maximise effectiveness and avoiding actions that make things worse.

As a rule of thumb, if someone is saying YES, you want to be authoritative and appreciative.  Be worthy of their trust and avoid abusing your power, deferring to them, or keeping them dependent.

If someone says NO, you should avoid reacting, instead approach them indirectly and find their hook.  Never be directive, inflammatory, or try to reason with them.

Everything about people who say MAYBE “depends” – on the request, the setting, or the people around them.  You need to be FLEX-ible in what you do as well, maximizing the context for success and removing any barriers to their progress.

YES BUT people can be extremely frustrating, but you can achieve positive outcomes if you stop being authoritative, acknowledge the depth or complexity of their issues, and either yield responsibility for solving the problem to them or provide a fixed number of ideas from which they can choose the best solution.

When NO OK people are resisting, you should give them the gift of time, soften their defences, or explain the potential consequences of their actions without shaming and blaming them, or giving lengthy explanations about why they should behave differently.

If you want to learn more, go to http://flex-ible.com/resources.html to access a range of free and inexpensive resources, view the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsLIlrYC9XM, or see the interactive article created for Planet Lean at http://flex-ible.com/TVPWRPL/story.html.

Frances Steinberg, PhD, is Company Director of Solutions un-Limited, providing resources and assistance on a variety of topics including working with challenging people.  To discuss this article please contact Frances at info@solutionsunlimited.co.nz.