Leading People You Would Rather Not Lead

Terrible Employees

It is said that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose not your family. Similarly you can’t always choose who you are going to lead.

If you are building a team from the start, yes, you have a say. But this doesn’t mean that you get everything, or anyone, you want.

Becoming a Leader

When I took on a management role, I was chartered to lead an already existing team. I had no choice in who was going to be part of my team. In other scenarios when I was leading virtual teams, I didn’t always have a say on which team members I would be working with.

Did I always find conducive people to lead? No. At times, I had the best of the best people working with me but other times, I felt like pulling my hair.

OMG! Leading THESE types???

There could be several situations where you would rather not lead the people you are working with. Let’s take a look at some of these scenarios:

  • First on my list are under-performers. These people are hardest to motivate. On the contrary, they can cause problems and bring the team morale down.
  • Sometimes you may come across lazy employees who are equally hard to motivate. At times you feel like doing the work yourself instead of asking them. Some of them would find all kinds of excuses to not complete the task. They would also push the blame on to other innocent employees.
  • Then there are those who have a big ego or influence in the organization. They expect everyone to be praising them and looking up to them. These employees often come with a baggage.
  • Sometimes people you are leading are far more senior than you and they could have a hostile attitude towards you. They don’t want to be led by someone they consider their junior.
  • I also came across some under-confident employees that were good at their work but they were equally interested in what others are doing. They would discuss at length about why they are better than their peers.

Leading Tough Employees

Terrible EmployeesThe reality is that one could come across such people in any group or organization and one cannot turn their back to them. The job of a leader is not always easy; it is certainly not a cake walk. But it does become more taxing when you are leading difficult employees.

So the question is this:

Which quality of a leader works in these cases?

One important leadership trait that works is tough empathy. These leaders empathize passionately but realistically. Blind empathy will not work. Leaders should care about employees but also about the work they do.

Leaders toughen up when they need to and give people what they need, not necessarily what they want.

Making Tough Decisions

This sometimes involves making tough decisions that are best for both people as well as business. Tough empathy combined with authenticity is what is required of a true leader.

By authenticity, I mean, the leader is not simply fulfilling job obligations but instead cares about it. His actions would almost always reveal the presence or absence of authenticity.

Because we don’t always get to choose who we lead, what other choice do we really have as effective leader but to make the best decisions, with the best available plan, in the most empathetic and constructive way. Even if we don’t want to.

So, have you experienced having to lead someone you would rather not? How did it go? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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Dealing with Nasty People Who Undermine You

Have you ever come across colleagues, coworkers, or “frenemies” who undermine you?

Or worse, have you had this happen to you and not even know that it was happening?

And how might you know if someone is working under-the-radar to cause you harm?

Understanding Sabotage

My intuitive senses are quite developed, but even for me it takes a few instances to figure out that someone is undermining me. Why? Because it is done in a subtle or gradual way and it often comes from people who you wouldn’t suspect such a thing.

These people could be your close friends or co-workers with whom you often hang out.

Most of the time undermining is done in a subtle way, but in other times it could be obvious. When it is subtle, it can be slipped in as a disguised compliment. You are left confused whether you were being complimented or slighted. It is only after a few repetitions that one figures out that they are being undermined.

So What’s Going On?

I am not a psychologist, but as far as I can tell, the following could be some of the reasons why people undermine others:

  • They genuinely believe that they are better than you. By undermining you, they are validating their beliefs to themselves and it makes them feel better.
  • Life is a competition for some people. I tend to think there are two kinds of competitive people. Some are too busy achieving and then there are others who seem to think that success is limited. When they see someone else’s success, to them it means their failure and therefore they try to undermine others in order to feel superior. In my humble opinion, I believe that success is unlimited. Moreover, success means different things to different people. One person’s success doesn’t mean other person’s failure. Aren’t we all on our own life path?
  • Co-workers may try to undermine you in order to get ahead or if they perceive you as boss’ favorite.
  • Some people feel that they haven’t gotten their dues in life. When they see someone who has gotten success easily, they may undermine their success.

Causing Harm

I have stated some of the reasons above and I am sure there are other reasons for which people may justify undermining others. However, it is a very negative experience for the person who is being undermined.

There is really nothing tangible to be gained from such an experience except for frustration and a bad taste in the mouth.

The person being undermined is often left with a confused feeling about his friend or co-worker and might also start thinking “What did I do wrong?” The fact is that he didn’t; the fault lies with the person who is undermining. It has probably become a habit with them and they do it subconsciously.

Dealing With Undermining People

In order to deal with undermining people, the best strategy is to ignore their opinions and not let that affect you. After all, they are undermining you because they think they are being heard or have a say.

Perhaps you gave their opinion of you a little too much weight in your life. Once you take that power away from them, they will likely stop or find someone else to undermine. T

his might be easier said than done but it is a good solution to walk away from a negative situation. Clearly such coworkers or fr-enemies are not adding any value. Instead they are trying to erode your self-esteem and in the process self-serving their own false beliefs.

So have you ever been a victim of work place sabotage? what did you do about it?  Or have you been guilty of doing this yourself? Why did you do this? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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Women Leadership – Is it different?

Women Leadership

I finally got around to reading the book Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It was a good read and it got me thinking about my journey as a female leader.

The interesting fact is that I never thought about my gender while studying or while working in the corporate world.

Focused Thinking

While studying for engineering in India, females were a huge minority. But I didn’t have time to think about my gender. All I thought about was how to be ahead of the curve.

Even in the workplace, I never felt that I missed out on any opportunity because of my gender. I was always given an opportunity if I had demonstrated potential and I showed interest. I believe that this is what Sheryl was alluding to in her book that it is very important for females to ask for those opportunities and more importantly believe that they can perform.

Having the confidence and grabbing the opportunity are both equally important.

Universal Leadership Skills

Let’s shift our focus to leadership skills. The question that came to my mind was this:

Are leadership skills different for women versus men?

During my career, I came across a couple of male co-workers who ignored my opinions for what seemed like a gender bias. But in the majority of the cases, my opinions weighed as much as others. I tend to think of these two cases as error in judgment.

I remember once a female co-worker came to me for advice on dealing with a male colleague. When I heard her concerns, I didn’t see anything that she was doing wrong specific to her gender but it was a generic leadership skill she needed to work on.

My conclusion from my experience is that leadership skills are consistent across the board whether we are talking about female or male leaders.

The same soft skills that work for male leaders also work for female leaders as well.

Thinking Internally

The aspect that women need to keep in mind is how they think internally. Are they constantly thinking about their gender or are they thinking of themselves as peers to other colleagues. Keep in mind that your internal thoughts seem to always have an external effect.

Whenever I was in a leadership position, I never thought “How am I going to be perceived as a woman.” I always thought about “How I am going to be perceived as a leader” and it always worked for me. I made similar mistakes as potentially a male coworker would and I learned the same way as he would.

Directing Our Emotions

I remember attending a leadership program designed only for women. I distinctly remember the first day, the coordinator of the program pointed us to boxes of tissues on our table in case we needed them. I was put off by that comment.

Why would the coordinator assume that we as female leaders would be shedding tears?

I tend to think if we want to be emotional, we should be directing our emotions towards excelling and leading right.

So what do you think about women leadership? Do you find that you have less or more control over how you focus, learn, react, and perceive things? Or are you more inclined to think otherwise? How does this type of thinking impact your level of influence where you work? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra

Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | Blog | Twitter | Books

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In Search of Leadership Excellence: Self-Reflection

We all know that leadership skills are soft skills. And that they are harder to acquire and master for most people when compared to mastering technical or hard skills. 

And to make this matter even more complex, each leader has their own unique style in how they handle communications, relationships, and emotional intelligence.

Therefore it becomes even harder to compare any two leaders to gain better perspectives about leadership excellence.

In Search of Leadership Excellence

Even if you feel that you have all it takes to be a good leader, you can always fine tune your skills for excellence. There is no one right way to lead, but inevitably there is always room for improvement in any leadership style.

Over time, a leader in search of excellence acquires skills and polishes them to become a superior leader.

When a leader takes the time to improve all of their skills, the results become proportionate to their level of influence. A sharpened leader tends to produce better teams. and better teams tend to produce better results.

But before a leader begins on the personal journey toward leadership excellence, they need to benchmark their current skill set, and abilities.

And this requires the time, tools, and techniques brought about by personal reflection.

Personal Reflection

It is important to set aside some time for self-reflection, even if it means taking a pause in your daily tasks. And as we are in our last months of the year 2013,  I feel this self-reflection should be put in context of this past year along with some of your upcoming goals.

Personally, towards the end of every year, I spend some time to set goals for the upcoming year. i strongly advocate this for other leaders as well. These goals can be for your business or your skills or both.

But again,  in order to set those forward-looking goals, I think it is very important to do your goal-setting in conjunction with some self-reflection.

Taking Time and Some Courage

I am not sure how many of you sit down and reflect over your skills and identify areas for development. Self-reflection is not an easy task, it takes time and courage to identify your weaknesses and then set some goals to overcome them.

However, it is a sign of good leadership when the leader is able to identify his weakness and is able to overcome it.

Steps Involved

To improve any skill, the first step is to be able to identify the area of improvement. You can do this on your own or otherwise talk to your trusted colleagues and ask them to help you identify areas for improvement. Self-awareness plays a good role in identifying areas for improvement and also in accepting criticism.

The second step is to identify tools and steps to overcome the identified weakness. You can talk to experts or colleagues who have had similar experience for ideas and tools to manage change.

The third step may then seem easier because you have already identified what to change and how to change it. However, honestly, it takes a lot of courage to go through the motions and actually make changes. What helps is determination to change and setting accountability. You can identify a colleague or friend or coach to keep you accountable. If you are disciplined enough, you can be self-accountable as well.

I would urge every leader to sit down and genuinely reflect on their skills. Then identify which areas they want to improve to enhance their leadership perception. And finally adhere to steps identified for improvement.

So what are your plans for self-reflection this year-end. How can you budget the time it takes to put your future goals into perspective with your past achievements? How can you do bite-sized self-reflective sessions throughout next year to help you toward excellence? i would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | Blog | Twitter | Books

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On Leadership and Making Difficult Decisions

Making Difficult Decisions

Decision making skills are one of the most important skills required from a leader. Leaders are constantly making decisions on different aspects of their job, life, and society.

For some leaders, decision-making comes naturally; and for others, it often is a daunting task.

On Making Difficult Decisions

Some leaders have a structured process for making decisions and some base it off of their intuition. It really depends on how a leader thinks and what he is comfortable with.

But keep in mind, there is no one right way to make decisions.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why decision-making can become difficult and what leaders can do when faced with such a situation.

• Too Large to Handle

If the situation is of a large magnitude and the leader has little or no experience handling such a situation, he may not be able to effectively decide how to move forward. It could be physically or emotionally daunting for the leader to single-handedly come to a conclusion.

If one is not sure of their decision, they can always consult a few trusted colleagues before taking action but they shouldn’t shy away from it.

It is therefore very important to have a network of trusted confidantes around you and have that network of people on whom you can lean.

Of course, the leader should do due-diligence before taking a decision, but he should never be afraid to take action.

• Analysis Paralysis

A leader may sometimes go into a loop of thinking “what-if” scenarios or worst-case scenarios and never decide which path to take. This kind of thinking is sometimes termed as “analysis paralysis.”

It is important for the leader to know how much analysis is enough and when it gets in the way of decision-making.

The key to moving on from this stagnation point is simply to pick the best options with the facts that are known. Just pick.

• Being Paralyzed by Fear of Failure

Another reason for a leader to not be able to take action is fear of being judged by peers or fear of taking the wrong decision. This fear can sometimes paralyze the leader from taking any action whatever.

They could be so afraid of taking the wrong decision that they will not take any decision at all.

It is the fear of public failure. It is the fear of being judged. When this happens, it would be wise to team up with another person who can nudge this leader into taking action.

An Opportunity for Personal Growth

Difficult DecisionsWhat is important in these cases is for the leader to be able to recognize these situations as an opportunity for personal growth.

It is the natural tendency of human beings to feel a certain amount of pressure from peers or supervisor when dealing with a critical decision-making task.

The pressure and visibility of the situation is also determined by the position of the leader.

Sometimes the visibility and pressure can paralyze people from taking action.

Leaders should be able to not succumb to such pressures and be able to take a sound decision.

So, what type of difficulties do you regularly face in making difficult decisions? Are you paralyzed by facts or fears? Or are you decisive in making those hard decisions when they come your way? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | Blog | Twitter | Books

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Leaders: The Art of Giving Feedback

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is a tricky thing to master. No matter which position we hold in our workplace, we will need to give feedback to our co-workers at one point or another.

For managers, it is a must skill to have; after all they give performance evaluation to their employees all the time.

But even for non-managerial positions, I feel that professionals should spend some time learning the art of giving feedback. This would benefit them a lot in how they are perceived as leaders.

On Temperature and Tone

When you are giving feedback, it is as much about how you deliver it as it is about the message that you are delivering to the recipient. If the person getting the feedback cannot swallow it, what good is that feedback?

If you don’t deliver it in the right manner, your feedback may be rejected or ignored and will not be taken advantage of.

All the time you spend on trying to give a good feedback will be wasted if you don’t deliver it in the right manner.

Tricks of the Trade

Here are a few techniques that people have found useful:

  • While giving feedback, always have something positive (constructive) to say along with developmental (improvement) points. This seems like an obvious thing, but you will find that many people do not follow this basic rule.
  • Always remember when you are giving feedback, it is not the time to show off your intellectual capabilities or skills. It is the time to acknowledge the person you are giving feedback to and highlight what they have accomplished and what they could improve upon. Make it a conversation about them, what they have done right and what they can do better. It should appear to the other person as a helpful feedback and not a reflection on how smart you are.
  • Some people use the sandwich technique to give feedback. Meaning start with talking about a positive point, throw in a couple of improvement points in between and end with a positive note. It is a well-known technique to provide feedback.
  • I don’t always follow the sandwich technique, but I do start with the positive points and ensure that I have thought through them and deliver them in a heartfelt manner. This makes an emotional connection with the person receiving the feedback. He or she understands that you have understood their effort and what they bring to the table. I then phrase the improvement points in a manner which resonates with the recipient. He or she understands that I am there to help and I am not simply criticizing. If I can, I also offer help to deal with the improvement points.

It is very important to put some thought into the content and the delivery of the feedback. One shouldn’t give feedback simply for the sake of giving it.

So, how good are you at giving feedback? Are you more reactionary, or more thoughtful? And how well do you listen before responding? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | Blog | Twitter | Book

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Leaders: How to Deal with Control Freaks

Control Freak

Haven’t we all come across control freaks in our lives at one time or another?

If you say that you haven’t, then I would be quite surprised! They seem to be anywhere people gather and they are very tenuous to deal with.

Dealing With Control Freaks

The bad news is that you can find such people in any walk of life, but the good news is that there is a way to deal with them. You just need to be patient with such people and you can’t expect to treat them just like others because it simply will not work.

Although they are very trying to be around, you definitely cannot let them frustrate you because when you do this you are giving them more power that way. You could certainly refuse to deal with them, but you might be forced in a situation at work or some other place where you will have no choice but to deal with a control freak.

L2L Reader Survey 2013

Understanding the Control Freak

con·trol freak [ kən trṓl freek ]

  1. Slang. n. a person whose behavior indicates a powerful need to control people or circumstances in everyday matters.

The very first thing to know about a control freak is that he is somewhere insecure himself which makes him behave in a controlling manner.

  • They are probably not sure of their ability to work with people or lead them and therefore they chose to control them.
  • They haven’t developed the right leadership skills and controlling is the only way they know.
  • They may even feel threatened by you and by trying to control you they feel a sense of false power.

The other obvious thing to note is that control freaks are completely unaware of the fact that they are being perceived as control freaks. These people sometime wonder why they are not so popular.

The answer is obvious to us but not to them.

When you know and accept these two facts about control freaks, it immediately gives you power over them. Some people may mistakenly perceive them as bossy, type A personalities and fail to see their weakness.

If you are able to see their insecurities, you can deal with them very easily.

Leading the Control Freak

If you have the time and inclination to coach these personalities into becoming able leaders, you should attempt to do so.

I have to say, it is not going to be easy.

First you will have to make them realize their weakness because they are not even aware and then help them overcome it.

Both of these processes could take years because they will have to first unlearn their current ways of dealing with people and then develop more healthy ways of leading.

Control Freak

If you are not inclined to be a coach to these people or you don’t have the time to devote neither you are in a position to coach them, then you will have to have a different strategy to deal with them.

  • One option is to work with their supervisors to keep their behavior in check. This is only possible if you work with them in a well-defined organizational setup.
  • If you work in a cross-functional organization or let’s say a volunteer organization where there is no hierarchy, then the strategy would have to be different. In such cases, try and appeal to their goals and aspirations.
  • If they have some goal that you can help them with, they will see you as a collaborator and will not get threatened by you. As soon as they see that they have something to gain from you, their behavior will soften automatically.

So, are you now or have you been in the past the victim of a control freak? How did it make you feel? How did you deal with it. Or perhaps, do you see some of these symptoms in your own behavior? If so, what steps can you take to play nicer in the sandbox with others? And how could this increase your level of influence? I would love to hear your thoughts?


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
Email | LinkedIn |  Web | Blog | Twitter | Book

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