Each of us thinks we have a lock on who the difficult people are in our lives and under our leadership. When asked what makes ‘them’ difficult, most answers will include characteristics that reflect way more or way less of an attribute or quality that we would prefer in our followers.

It’s human nature to think that our perspectives and approach are, in fact, the most effective on the planet. Why, because this is what we are most familiar and comfortable with and, of course, we have witnessed how effective our leadership style and tactics are.

Often, when I provide executive coaching, I must remind leaders that leadership is not about OUR comfort, but about how well we lead those under our charge no matter how different or difficult they are.

In fact, the more ‘bilingual, or ambidextrous’’ leaders can be in understanding and utilizing different communication and leadership styles, the more effective they will be.

When most leaders think about emotional intelligence, they think of knowing what triggers a person and how they respond. This is true, however, there are some specific things that we can do to lead more effectively. They all have to do with how we use our time.

1. Intentionally carve out time to grow and develop your leadership.

I know your next thought. Darrell, I don’t have time to sit around listening to Dave and trying to analyze him, besides, I’m not a Shrink. You are already spending more hours working around Dave and cleaning up after him. Instead, invest this precious time on the front end with intentional leadership focus instead of the back end patching up what you’ve allowed him to break or negatively influence.

2. Listen more closely and ‘study’ those we work with can help us know what leadership language we must use to get the most and best from our team(s). This, of course, means that we must intentionally focus and choose not to succumb to delicious daily distractions and especially the never-ending digital distractions that steal our ability to attend to the people and issues that require our thoughtful leadership.

3. Invest your time and attention to listening carefully to Difficult Dave who can be abrasive, pushy, offensive, and disrespectful. Sometimes we avoid people like this. Instead, ask Dave strategic questions about what makes him tick and what tics him off. This time REALLY LISTEN. Stop the mental channel surfing and scrolling ahead that happens and listen to Dave.

I promise that you will learn something new about him that will help you ‘dial in to his frequency’, ‘speak his language’ and ultimately increase your persuasion and influence with your subordinates and/or teammates. In the next 24 hours, schedule an in person meeting, jump on a FaceTime or VideoChat with the person who came to mind when you were reading this article and begin to take pro-active steps to manage your team’s performance and your culture. Be bold and preemptive and not permissive and reactive!

It’s our job as leaders to protect and cultivate the culture where we lead. Others are counting on us to manage and lead the

DIFFICULT Daves of the world and not allow them to poison the culture by allowing them free rein because they are a challenging employee/person. Use the organization’s CORE Values to guide you.