A couple of years ago, I was booked for a speaking event that I dreaded with every fiber of my being. It wasn’t because it was in a dreary city or a bad venue. It wasn’t because it was a required attendance event and the audience didn’t want to be there. (Those are the worst by the way. The audience hates you before you even walk on stage.)
It wasn’t any of that.
It was because the client drove me completely crazy.
She requested a conference call months before the event and interrogated me for over an hour about every detail of exactly what I would be speaking on. She gave me step-by-step instructions of every possible scenario and exactly what I would and would not do. She wore me out with her questions and instructions, and by the time I got off the phone, I was exhausted.
Then she requested another follow-up conference call in which she repeated those same instructions multiple times—instructions that even included how to turn on the microphone. Seriously? Does she think I’ve never done this before?
Does your business have the right insurance? Connect with a local pro to learn more.
Then a few days after our second call, she sent me an email detailing out my instructions yet again. Instructions that again outlined exactly what I would and would not do, instructions that told me again how to use a microphone, and instructions that told me exactly—I kid you not—how to walk on stage. Her email also instructed me that we would be going over these instructions again in person when I arrived. Oh goody.
By this point, I wasn’t just annoyed. I was insulted. This lady was unbelievable. She clearly had no confidence in my ability or what she was paying for. She was treating me like I was an idiot.
When I got to the event, I was just breathing through the dread and trying to get it over with as soon as possible.
Then something interesting happened. I was up front on stage during the sound check before the event, and I noticed her in the back talking to the AV team.
“ . . . Okay, but do you have the clickers? Do you have sound for the video? Will you turn off the music when our president walks on stage? What about all of the power cords—do you have all of the power cords?”
“Yes, yes, YES, okay?!” The professional AV team responded exasperated. “We’ve got it all under control, okay? This is what we do.”
And then I got it. It wasn’t just me that this woman was checking and double-checking. It was everyone.
Even though I perceived that the client was just annoying and insulting, that’s not what she was trying to do at all. She was just very, very detail-oriented. It wasn’t personal toward me. It was just how she was wired.
Often, what we perceive as something personal about us is usually just someone’s natural personality conflicting with our own. For example,
“He doesn’t like me.”
This is what many people perceive from high-D people (measured by the DISC personality assessment) who are naturally blunt, direct and decisive.
“She doesn’t trust me to do the job.”
This is what many people perceive from high-C people who are naturally detail oriented and like to check, double-check and triple-check things, like the client at my speaking event.
“He won’t give me direction.”
This is what many people perceive from high-S people that naturally resist giving definitive instruction because they want everyone to get along.
“She isn’t interested in what I have to say.”
This is what many people perceive from high-I people that naturally have a lot to say and usually talk more than they listen. I am like this, by the way.
As I was reminded during that speaking event, most people aren’t trying to be difficult. They’re just different. That’s why it’s so important to know your team members and understand their natural personality styles. If you are in leadership, you can’t be successful unless you do.
Here at Ramsey Solutions, we use the DISC personality assessment for our team, but you can use whatever works the best for you. Which tool you use isn’t as important as just using something.
So before you speed into the crazy-hectic fall season, make time this summer (when things tend to be slower) to really get to know your team.
Because if you don’t know your team, you can’t understand them. And if you can’t understand them, you definitely can’t lead them.
Leadership isn’t about leading business, projects, initiatives, strategies or bottom lines. It’s about leading people – even those people that are very different from you.