Working With Dysfunctional Dominant Personalities

Dysfunctional Dominate Personality

One third of the population has a “Dominant” personality. 

I happen to be one of them and many of my friends and clients are also.  

On Strengths and Struggles

People with a Dominant personality have high confidence in our opinions which like most strengths can be good or bad – strengths taken too far usually become struggles.   

A deviant and devious, version of this group is the Dysfunctional Dominant who always has to be right regardless. Have you worked with a dysfunctional dominant personality?  Or, does it hit closer to home and you recognize those dominant tendencies in your own life?

In essence, it’s the inability to be wrong.

I call it “A Progression in D Major” because there are several “D” steps to this destructive leadership behavior.

The Symptoms

One of the Dominant personality’s best talents is their ability to quickly “get it right.” They typically build a track record of successes and these further stroke their ego which, in turn, adds to their already high confidence.

But, no one can be right all the time; and when they’re confronted with being out of step, they have great difficulty accepting it.

Perhaps you have heard it said about a powerful leader, “There’s a graveyard just outside his/her office for those who dared to confront them with the truth.” Of course if you continually shoot the messenger, pretty soon that is a stack of dead messengers and no more messages.

A good tip off on the dysfunctional dominant is that they attract weak “yes” people and get rid of those who stand up to them.

“If you continually shoot the messenger, pretty soon that is a stack of dead messengers and no more messages.”

The Pattern

The Destructive Pattern of Deny, Defend, Demonize, and Destroy 

Observing this a few years ago, it occurred to me that what I was seeing was a Progression in D Major. How far the progression goes depends on the level of dysfunction of the individual. You can probably think of bosses, famous politicians, high profile coaches, and religious leaders who went down this scale.

Note the progression below when they are caught in a mistake.

Step 1Deny

Example - “That’s not true.” “It never happened.” “You’re wrong.”

Step 2Defend

Example - “You don’t understand; there is a good explanation.”

Step 3Demonize

Example - “They are out to get me. They are jealous, etc.”

Step 4Destroy

Example - In this step ruthless tactics are employed to undermine or eliminate the opposition.

After watching many leaders over the last thirty years, I’ve observed that the outwardly confident but inwardly insecure Dominant person is the most likely one to be caught in this progression.

The Next Step

Admitting that you recognize these tendencies in your own life is a significant step towards a renewed personal leadership outlook; there’s time to correct past mistakes and re-commit to honorable leadership.

And if you’re being led by a Dysfunctional Dominant personality, know that their behavior will eventually catch up with them; the best thing that can do is to daily commit to leading with character, trust, and courage in all of your relationships.

So, how have you related to a Dysfunctional Dominant personality in the past? When has your honorable leadership made a difference? Please share your comments and thoughts in this forum. 


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Lee Ellis
Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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When There Is Trust…The Dollars Flow


During a team-building activity a few years ago, I asked my team members to break into groups and work on two drawings.

  • The first drawing was to illustrate what it was like to work with people they trusted.
  • The second drawing was to illustrate what it was like to work with someone who they did not trust.

Developing Trust

It was an interesting activity because, even after focusing my attention on developing trust for a few years, some of my team members still did not trust each other. During the activity, some of these folks were on the same teams.

The activity culminated with the presentation of the drawings to the large group. We had many good illustrations of what it felt to work with people we trust or don’t trust and one specific drawing got my attention.

A project manager and a web developer drew a dollar sign on the “trust” side and a penny sign, on “no trust” side.

They simply described it as the following:

“When there is trust, the dollars flow, when there is no trust, the pennies trickle.”

On Dollars and Sense

This drawing captured the essence of the activity from a business perspective. If there is trust, your team will maximize its efficiency and the results will be superior.

If the team lacks trust, the team’s efficiency will be compromised, the results will be limited and, very often, inferior.
Some people question why developing trust is important.

Here are a few relevant questions for the skeptics:

  • Is the level of cynicism in your organization high or low when managers speak? If so, why is that the case?
  • Is there fear of retribution that causes you not to say what you think when you disagree with your management?
  • Are you and your colleagues consistently motivated to do the best by working as a team? Or, is the culture one of cliques and silos that don’t work well together?’

Leveraging Strategic Advantage

Trust is a strategic advantage and managers who do not foster trust in their teams are hindering their teams’ ability to consistently deliver their best results.

Sadly, I see the opposite of trust development too often. Too many managers use their rank to intimidate and bully their staff.

The scary thing is that these managers are unaware of their actions and see themselves as good leaders.

Developing and maintaining trust is the most difficult area of management I have experienced. As I mentioned, some of my team members did not trust each other.

This is particularly revealing because it had been my stated goal to establish an atmosphere of honesty, transparency and trust since I started working for that team years before.

Seeing Your Blind Spots

One of the factors that made it so difficult to build trust was my inability to understand how my own actions were viewed by the team and how my blind spots were hindering my own ability to develop authentic trust with my staff.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to improve until months after taking a new assignment.

Stating my goal of establishing trust, conducting team activities, and introducing trust building materials to the team was only a start.  I needed time for self-evaluation and reflection in order to change my behavior and lead others in the process of building trust.

Courageous honoring feedback from new and old staff helped me understand how I needed to change my overall leadership philosophy.

Only then was I able to start growing the organizational trust and using trust as a competitive advantage.

Recipe Not: Bullying

It took me years to figure out that I need to lead in the opposite way of what too many of us have experienced for years:
Bullying from the top

Sometimes the bullying is subtle and covert, other times it is blunt and in your face.

Unfortunately, I was good at both of these types of bullying. However, I was never as bad as some of the examples listed in this article about incivility in the workplace. These stories are scary but true!

It takes humility and willingness to admit mistakes to develop a culture of trust and safety.

Trust Maturity Model

Trust Maturity Model

To help managers and their teams, we developed the following infographic on the Trust Maturity Model.

As in other maturity models, the term “maturity” relates to the degree of formality and optimization of processes, from ad hoc practices to active optimization of processes that enable trust.

The model can be used to identify the current organizational trust level and develop a plan to improve it.

Where does your organization rank in the model? Is your team struggling with chaos, learning and enabling, optimizing, or innovating? Let me know. I look forward to your comments!


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Al Gonzalez
Al Gonzalez is Founding Partner at GIVE Leadership
He helps clients develop trust and leverage the strengths of all team members
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Executive Success: Dealing with Difficult People

Difficult People

There’s no avoiding it.  You’re bound to come across someone who’s difficult to deal with. 

It’s inevitable as soon as you add different personalities, experiences, and backgrounds to the mix.

Who Are They?

They may be someone we report to or someone who reports to us.  Or they may be a peer, a vendor, or a client.  The bottom line is that it’s going to happen and generally can’t be avoided.

If we are to be effective as a leader, we must become good at dealing with those difficult people.

Whoever they are, they usually cause anxiety, frustration, concern, and/or anger in us.

The irony is that when we become anxious, frustrated, concerned or angry, we ourselves, can become difficult to deal with.

Consequently, it is imperative that we become adept at dealing with them.  Occasionally we can avoid the person altogether, but more often than not, it’s a relationship we have to address.

Dealing With Them

Difficult PeopleOne course of action is simply to tolerate the other person.  This course of action (or more accurately, inaction) is one which avoids confrontation and maintains the status quo.  Productivity remains consistent and there’s no risk of workplace “drama.”

Unfortunately, by not dealing with the situation, you end up perpetuating a number of counterproductive dynamics.

You end up expending valuable energy by “tolerating” an unsatisfactory situation.

It affects your attitude, your thoughts, and your productivity.

Additionally, in your attempt to shield or isolate yourself from this person, they end up feeling neglected and unappreciated.

When that happens, they tend to “check out”, becoming complacent and apathetic – simply going through the motions at work.  It’s not a very fruitful course of action.

Negative Team Dynamics

There’s one other negative dynamic that exists when we tolerate a difficult person.  Although it may feel like the issue is between the two of you, in fact, a difficult person affects your entire team.  When you allow a difficult person to persist, it reflects on your leadership style and your values.

This, in turn, negatively impacts your ability to lead effectively.

Additionally, the age-old adage holds true, “One bad apple spoils the barrel,” as will be evidenced by the people who will come forth voicing their relief once the difficult person is gone.

Looking In The Mirror

Another course of action might be to reflect on our own behaviors and attitudes, and summarily decide to change ourselves.  While this occasionally may be appropriate, generally it’s not.  (A good test is to observe whether there are many “difficult” people on your team.)

In fact, our initial reaction to this course of action might be this:

“Why should I be the one to change?  It’s clear the other person is the one with the problem.”

Not only would that be valid, but it sheds some light on how to handle the situation, because if our thought is to ask the other person to change, their reaction would most likely be the same.

Why should I be the one to change?

This of course poses a problem because in fact, that person generally IS the problem.

Being Transparent with Truth

The answer to this dilemma is to have an honest and transparent conversation with the person.  As a leader, we have the opportunity and an obligation to develop people and help them grow.

  • We need to be compassionate, yet strong.
  • We need to be empathetic, yet work change their perspective.
  • We accomplish this by acknowledging the situation and by asking good questions.

This course of action helps us understand their perspectives and motivations.  By doing this, not only can you positively impact their enjoyment of and satisfaction with their work, but you’ll help them to be more effective and productive.

Gaining Clarity

If nothing else, you’ll help them gain clarity about themselves and then help them (in a positive way) move on to another opportunity which better suits their skills and their perspectives.

Mastering the ability to effectively deal with difficult people will enhance your leadership effectiveness and enrich the lives of the people around you.


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Michael Beck
Michael J. Beck is President of Michael Beck International, Inc
He helps leaders improve their personal effectiveness and productivity
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Articles of Faith: Are You a Spiritual Leader?

When we look at spiritual leaders we find that they impact their organizations with their vision and values. Below are a few signs that help us recognize that an organization is led by a spiritual leader.

The Humble Leader

The leadership style of an organization directed by a spiritual leader would be collegial government in which a leader discovers his or her true self in the group or community with which he or she works.

This requires the humility to realize a leader does not have all the answers, and the awareness that genuine organizational direction percolates up to the leader from followers.

On Mission and Values

The organization is led by mission and values not by organizational goals and objectives. It is shared mission, values, and vision that enthuse and motivate the organization.

However, these underlying core values and sense of shared destiny develop, and yes change, with the input and experiences of all members.

Mission, values, and vision do not tell us about the organization’s origins, but how it sees itself today and tomorrow.

Collaborative Environment

In this kind of an organization with collegiality as the governmental model the administration is collaborative at all levels in the structure.

Collaboration takes place on three different levels:

  • intellectual
  • organizational
  • personal

It includes an appreciation of how each person contributes to the common goals of the organization.

In this kind of organization decisions are made at the lowest level in the structure. This commitment to subsidiarity pushes authority down and refuses to allow gifted members to remain empty and feel less valued while decision-making is reserved to executives who do not need to be involved.

These organizations are self-generating, healing, and liberating.

Self-Managed Teams

A spiritual leader’s organization channels effectiveness and achievement to self-managed teams in which members are self-directed.

This is the foundational experience of the organization’s purpose and effectiveness.

The organization’s identity is strong here or nowhere. Team members inspire each other, motivate each other, and foster mutual growth. Members of self-managed teams develop new behaviors and new ways of thinking that percolates up and influences the whole structure.

Such an organization gives importance to building community and welcomes everyone as important contributors both to work and to community life. In a healthy organization, relationships contribute to each one’s health and self-esteem; and, highlight the human values of compassion, empathy, love, and friendship.

Such an organization fosters community through its own rituals, stories, symbols, and celebrations.

This kind of organization manifests special appreciation for its workers. This not only in matters of work environment, salary, benefits, and morale; but,  also in fostering a mindset of consultation, listening, getting feedback, and a commitment to diversity.

Culture of Openness

Every organization moved by inner values develops a culture of openness and trust. Communication is very important and channels of communication are carefully maintained. This approach includes open records whenever possible, including financial documents, executives’ salaries and benefits, trustee actions, and so on.

This free flow of information generates trust and a sense of belonging.

A spiritual leader fosters in his or her organization a dedication to ongoing education. This starts in the hiring process. Then, leaders continue it in carefully planned training, and it is maintained through the freedom to learn and experiment.

Both with products or services and with internal organizational life.

Ongoing Education

This dedication to ongoing education includes:

  • meaningful dialogue 
  • sharing of ideas
  • questioning assumptions 
  • debating company strategies

Spiritual leaders need to create organizations that extend and prolong their values. Such commitment will include some of the values indicated here.

So, are you the type of person who puts their trust in their teams like a spiritual leader? Do you operate on faith that the people working for you and the organization can meet and exceed expectations? Or are you the type of leader that feels “command and control” is the only real way of getting things done. I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Edited by Scott Leathers

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Hey Leaders: Failure Isn’t a Dirty Word


Failure. It’s a word that evokes fear. And for good reason: We’re taught to avoid it at all costs

And when it happens, “never admit it!”

Failure = Bad

Our brains automatically try to distort, deny, or manipulate our sense of reality to make failure less damaging to our ego. Beyond that, we’re also protecting our livelihoods. After all, failure could lead to the loss of a job or hard-built reputation, which could not only harm us but the families that depend on us.

As a leader, failure all too often is equated with the fear of losing your organization, your department, and your people.

It’s Not all Bad

In manufacturing, the goal is to eliminate failure from the processes by driving toward zero defects—a goal based on the routine nature and highly probable outcomes of the process. But innovation is a little different.

Innovative timelines can be three to five years (or more) and it’s much more difficult to predict the future. The more uncertainty involved, the higher the probability the project will fail to meet objectives.

Failure is a possible (and sometimes more probable) outcome from work in driving innovation. If we decide to ignore our failures, sweep them under the rug or run in the opposite direction, we will never have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.

Learning through Failure

Work with a high degree of uncertainty comes with a need to tolerate—and even expect—failure. This kind of work, such as innovation, should be understood for what it is: Research and Development.

Rather than talking about failure as a worthless initiative, talk about it as an experiment from which valuable knowledge and experience is gained.

When discussing failed innovation projects, I focus on three questions:

  • First, what was the group able to accomplish?
  • Next, what did they learn?
  • And finally, what would they have done differently?

Don’t let your team focus too much on things like not having enough resources, because that’s always an issue in any size organization.

Don’t push blame on others—whether or not it’s accurate, it’s likely not going to be helpful.

Anchor your lessons in facts and help others draw their own conclusions on their roles in a failed project.

Creating a Positive Environment for Failure

To create a safe environment to recognize and discuss failure, it’s imperative that it starts at the top, no matter the size of the organization. Provide examples of failed projects, what has been learned from those projects, and how that work is going to push the organization forward.

Leaders should emphasize that failure is part of the learning process.

To live up to these expectations, it is up to the leaders to hold their teams accountable for living up to expectations. Every part of an organization will be involved in supporting innovation and failure.

  • HR will need to review their procedures for dealing with people involved in a failed initiative.
  • Finance will need to understand performance metrics more akin to startup companies than mature organizations.
  • Marketing will need a communication strategy for addressing failed initiatives.

It’s important for the leadership team to recognize those involved in the failure and to congratulate them on their journey and contributions. Only then, with the proper closure to the failure, can the process begin again.

Treat Your People Well

It’s critical to understand how you are treating the individuals involved in high-risk work. When someone takes a risk in their career by working on innovation initiatives and they are punished for their failures, they will either stop taking risks and settle for a less risky position, or they will temper their risk taking to the point where they are certain they won’t fail.

Let your team know that you are proud of all that they have accomplished, despite their failure.

And be sure to use the information, knowledge, and experience that you have gained in the failure to move on, improve, and build your next project.

Fear of failure leads to fear of risk, and without risk, an organization cannot grow. So lead your teams to go for what’s a little risky, learn from the risks that don’t work out, and keep up the spirit of respect for the endeavor.


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Matt Hunt
Matt Hunt is a speaker, consultant and founder of Stanford and Griggs, LLC
He has over 20 years of Business and Technology Experience
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Leaders: The Keys to Purposeful Motivation

Carrot and Stick

You motivate everyone around you every day whether you know it or not.  Motivation can be a positive force or a negative force.  They key to success in motivation is to recognize its power and use it to positively change the lives of everyone on your team.

Successful leadership relies on motivating your team to accomplish the goals you have set.

Lee Iacocca said this: “Management is nothing more than motivating other people

Purposeful Motivation

Purposeful motivation is not a one-time event.  It isn’t something you set in motion and let it run.  You can’t just delegate motivation to someone else.  As a successful leader, motivation is your number one job.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”~ Zig Ziglar

As basic to life as a shower is, so is motivation to leadership.  You just can’t lead without it.

The In’s and Out’s of Motivation

There are two types of motivation: Positive and Negative Motivation.

Positive motivation works by drawing people in. Negative motivation works by pushing people out.

Let’s examine both of these types of motivations to see how they work toward organizational excellence.

On Positive Motivation

Congratulation, Celebration, and Cultivation will bring Calibration

To motivate your team to succeed:

  • Congratulate members on their positive outcomes
  • Celebrate positive movement towards the goal with the whole team
  • Cultivate the strengths of each person on your team
  • If you do these things, they will Calibrate their behavior to your expectations


“If you woke up breathing, congratulations!  You have another chance.” ~ Andrea Boydston

Every day each member of your team does something worthy of your congratulations.  Let’s start with showing up for work.  Do you say good morning as you walk in the door?  This makes for a great way to start the day.  Wouldn’t you like to hear someone say, “Thank you for allowing us to benefit from your strengths today?”

Then there are the obvious ones like completing projects on time, facilitating a meeting well, giving a presentation to the executives.

Nothing says thank you like saying thank you. It’s that simple.


“There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate.” ~ Robert Brault

Somewhere near the end of a year, each team will be establishing its goals for the following year.  These goals usually define success as accomplishing something by year-end: sales goals, profit goals, new customer goals, etc.

The leader sets the vision for how the team will accomplish its goals.

It’s hard to stay motivated if the goals are something that can only be achieved twelve months in the future.  Help your team stay motivated by breaking the year-end goals into smaller pieces: quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

Then you can celebrate reaching goals not just at the end of the year, but at the end of each day, week, month, and quarter.


“Mentor, mentor, mentor. Encourage and cultivate the next generation of leaders” ~ Tom Peters

It is human nature to grow, to become better every day.  A leader can tap into that desire and provide opportunities for their team to achieve greater and greater success.  Investing time with your team through mentoring is an essential component to motivation.


cal·i·brate  [ kálli bràyt ] Noun: To check, adjust, or determine by comparison with a standard. –  American Heritage Dictionary

As your team sees their success, they will model their behavior after yours.  Through your motivation, a cycle of expanding success is started.

On Negative Motivation

Domination and Denigration will bring Repudiation

To motivate people to fail:

  • Dominate each discussion with only your opinions
  • Denigrate individuals by focusing on every misstep and weakness
  • And they will Repudiate your behavior and leave


“Your job is to make the best decision, not to decide.” Jamie Dimon

There is a limit to the knowledge of any one person.  The leader who limits decision to only their opinion will see their team lose interest in offering differing thoughts that many times are better thoughts.


“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations” ~ Steve Jobs

The only way to never make mistakes is to never try.  The leader who disparages their team for mistakes will soon find the team stops trying.


“Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life”  ~ Napoleon Hill

Loyalty is a two-way street.  But it starts with the leader being loyal to the team.  Negative motivation is a sure way to eliminate loyalty, and ensure failure.

So what are some of the ways you can learn to positively motivate your teams toward achieving excellence in their daily work? What are some of the tricks and techniques that have worked best for you? Conversely, what have you seen in your workplace that has soured the mood and made people leave? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker, and Writer
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On Leadership, Delegation and Whack-a-Mole

Whack A Mole Game

Delegating is a difficult skill to master. Many leaders make it to high levels in their careers and within organizations without ever mastering this skill. And this can be a big problem!

Someone recently asked “Why are some executives so poor at delegating?

On Delegation and Details

We expect that executives should know how to effectively delegate by the time they have gotten to a senior level.

But like any skill, position level has little to do with it any one person mastering the skill of delegation.

When the nature of the work reinforces an executive into thinking that they need to have direct knowledge of every detail of the work, poor delegation will follow.

Let the Games Begin

Whack a Mole with a Telephone

Manufacturing and retail industries are two examples where executives are driven to focus on the details. Each area of the business must focus on key levers of running the day-to-day operations to ensure the entire system is running smoothly.

It can easily become a game of “whack-a-mole.”

The executive quickly addresses the latest issue that pops up and then prepares for the next to pop. Instead of a padded mallet however, the executive has a phone or email.

The executive quickly calls their direct report responsible giving a too brief synopsis of the issue and an order to “take care of it immediately.”  The direct report who has been through this too many times knows not to ask questions but to say “Yes, consider it done.”

He or she then runs off to quickly band-aid the situation. Both the executive and the direct report move quickly anticipating the next mole to pop.

Success is the illusion that everything is running smoothly.

Lacking an Important Skill

You Obviously Don’t Know How to Wield a Hammer

This conditioned response can lead to a bipolar style of delegation. First, it may appear the executive is trusting the manager to do his or her job by giving just the essence of the issue and then allowing the manager to proceed in his/her best judgment.

However, if the manager does not solve the situation to the executive’s unstated expectations, the executive often pendulum swings to the other side of delegation and micro-manages. The executive may assume the manager can’t be trusted or doesn’t have the knowledge or skill needed to be effective.

All of this back-and-forth interaction unfortunately often drags the executive back down into the day-to-day operations.

Missing the Mark

An Ego or Victim Trip

The more their managers miss the undefined mark, the more the executive believes that he or she is the only capable person to run the business.

This reinforces their belief that they must personally “be on top of every detail” in order to be successful.

This may appear as an ego trip; with the executive thinking they are the only one intelligent enough to figure it all out. But it may be more of a victim trip? “Poor me, look at how busy I am – I have to take on the burden of running this company single-handedly.”

Our mind-talk can end up being our worst enemy.

Regardless of ego or victim trip, how does a leader get out of this trap?

Building a Better Mole Trap

Creating Ways to Delegation Success

When something goes wrong with delegation, the key to overcoming this is to focus on the performance discrepancy instead of the manager’s deficiency.

An easy way to see if you are part of the problem is to ask some questions spurred from Robert Mager and Peter Pipe’s thinking in Analyzing Performance Problems:

  • Are my expectations crystal clear?
  • Have I clearly defined what success should look like?
  • Could my manager/employee do what I am wanting (not necessarily asking if my expectations are unclear) if their career depended on it? If the answer is yes, then it is not an issue of lack of skill or knowledge.
  • If they could do it but are not, what other factors could be causing the issue? (e.g. lack of resources, conflicting goals, lack of quality measures, misaligned consequences)

When I’ve asked myself these questions, I can often stop at the first, realizing that while rushing around I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.

Time to call Mole Busters

Slowing Down to Speed Up

Unless you take the time to find the mole’s breeding ground, you are stuck containing individual moles along the network of paths they have created.

To effectively delegate, the leader must slow down to speed up. But slowing down is something very counterintuitive to their daily “whack-a-mole” conditioning and counter to the staffing algorithms so often used that don’t allocate time for addressing strategic issues.

Consider the time that will be saved in frustration, re-work and micro-managing problems and then ask yourself if you can make the  time to lead your staff in an analysis of reoccurring issues.

Which exterminator would you rather hire?:

  • Killing moles one-at-a-time for over 25 years
  • Eliminating your mole problem at the source

When you look at it this way, it becomes a cost and time savings to go to the root of the issue.

What other tips do you have to avoid blindly digging yourself into a hole of delegating ineffectively?


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Carlann Fergusson

Carlann Fergusson is owner at Propel Forward LLC
She provides seminars and consulting on Strategic Leadership Challenges
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Skype: carlann.fergusson

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