Dealing With A Co-Worker Who Drives You Crazy

The Only Boat You Ever Control Is Your Own

Intro by Urs Koenig, Phd, MBA,  Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Have you ever tried changing someone who drove you absolutely crazy but had no interest in changing? You? Of course not! I know, me neither!

Those of us who have ever tried to change a co-worker, direct report, spouse or kid who drove us nuts but had no interest in changing know how futile that effort is.

Take it from someone who is highly passionate about helping people getting better: don’t waste your energy or time. As our teacher Marshal Goldsmith puts it well in our article this month: the only boat that you can ever control is your own!

Dealing with a Co-Worker Who Drives You Crazy

By Marshall Goldsmith

Almost all of us work with someone who drives us absolutely crazy — one person who consistently frustrates us or makes us feel guilty or angry. Dwelling on how much we hate these coworkers is never a great idea. If you believe, as I do, that it’s our own behavior that holds us back from achieving as much as we can, then one of the larger impediments to our progress is the time and energy we waste being upset with someone else — especially someone we can’t change.

Not sure what your behavior has to do with someone else’s craziness? An old Buddhist parable may help illuminate the issue. A young farmer was paddling his boat up the river to deliver his produce to the village. He was in a hurry. It was a hot day and the farmer, covered with sweat, wanted to make his delivery and get home before dark. Looking ahead, he spied another vessel moving rapidly downstream toward his boat. The vessel seemed to be trying desperately to hit him.

“Change direction, you idiot!” he yelled at the other boat. “You’re going to hit me!” But his cries were to no avail. Although the farmer rowed furiously to get out of the way, the other boat hit him with a sudden thud. Enraged, he stood up and shouted, “You moron! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of this wide river? What’s wrong with you?”

As he strained to see the pilot of the other vessel, he was surprised to realize that it was empty. He was screaming at an empty boat that had broken free of its moorings and was just floating downstream with the current.

The next time you get angry and get ready to blow up because of someone else, just remember: there is never anyone in the other boat. When we are screaming, we are always screaming at an empty vessel. Getting angry with other people for being who they are makes about as much sense as getting upset with your chair for being a chair. Your chair cannot help being a chair; that’s what it is. If you had that other person’s history, genes, family, and life, you would be that other person — and do exactly whatever it is they’re doing that you can’t stand.

You don’t have to agree with, like or even respect the other person; just don’t let him make you crazy. After all, he probably isn’t losing sleep over you. You’re the one being punished — and you’re also the person who’s doing the punishing.

The next time a coworker starts making you crazy, try redirecting your energy to change yourself. The only boat that you can ever control is your own.

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the world’s leading executive coaches and author of the bestselling book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Lauren and I are certified Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaches. For more information on our results-oriented executive coaching process, visit http://www.redpointcoaching.com/services/leadership_coaching.aspx.

Hiring A Executive Coach? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself (and Your Prospective Coach) First

By Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA, Principal, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

If you (1) are a coach, (2) have worked with a coach or (3) are hiring a coach (for yourself or others) ask yourself these three questions (discussed in more detail below):

  1. What does success look like and who gets to decide?
  2. What are you paying for (or, if you are the coach, what are you getting paid for)?
  3. What is the process?

(Note, I believe that a lot of what I discuss here also applies to hiring and working with other consultants, not just coaches)

Let’s talk about what most coaching looks like today and what we believe it should look like. Consider the below two scenarios and ask yourself:

  • Which scenario is closer to my experience of coaching?
  • Which scenario is preferable and why?

Scenario I: A senior manager just finished his eight month $35k coaching engagement with a well known executive coach. Although the manager’s boss and the Vice President of Human Resources had a good idea what the manager was working on (he needed to be more assertive and build stronger relationship across departments) they did not participate in the actual coaching process. The coaching was a somewhat mysterious process as it happened behind closed doors. Even some of the coaching client’s close working colleagues did not know that he was working with a leadership coach. Over the duration of the engagement, there were two progress meetings during which the client and the coach reported their progress to his boss and the HR VP. At the end of the engagement, the coach submitted a report in which he outlined how the client progressed during the engagement. He presented primarily self-reported anecdotal evidence. The report included a (positive) self assessment by the client. The coach believed he had earned his $35k fee because he spent a lot of time with the client and strongly felt that the client got better.

Scenario II: A senior manager just finished his eight month $35k coaching engagement with a well known executive coach. The client involved her stakeholders (peers, direct reports, and bosses) from the very start in the coaching process. The client developed her coaching goals (she needed to be more assertive and build stronger relationship across departments) in collaboration her stakeholders and regularly solicited feedback on her progress from them. Halfway through and at the end of the engagement stakeholders rated the client on her progress against her coaching goals in an anonymous online survey online survey. The results of the first online survey were less than stellar and forced the client and her coach to make some changes. The second and final online stakeholder survey showed a significant improvement of the client’s targeted leadership behaviors. The coach collected his $35k fee because (and only because) he facilitated a process by which helped the client get better, as assessed by the client’s 3rd party stakeholders.

Again, ask yourself:

  • Which scenario is closer to my experience of coaching?
  • Which scenario is preferable and why?

A lot of coaching in small business and corporate America is significantly closer to Scenario I than to Scenario II (I know because I have practiced it myself…). For those of you even vaguely familiar with our leadership coaching approach, it will come as no surprise that Lauren and I are strong proponents for moving coaching towards Scenario II.

Let me explain.

I have been coaching for more than 10 years and looking back over this period I am amazed how much the field of coaching and my practice has changed.

I started my coaching as a career coach, quickly transitioned into small business/entrepreneurial coaching and finally ended up finding my calling in leadership (executive) coaching.

I have worked with many wonderful clients (100+ of them) and I believe I have done a lot of good work and, on occasion, some great work. However, I often had the nagging feeling of uneasiness around the measurable impact of my coaching. Yes, the clients felt happy and gave me positive feedback. I did feel they were (for the most part) making good process and got things done they would not have done without our work together. Nevertheless: my outcome driven personality was not satisfied. Questions would linger: How did I really know if I made a difference? Who should be the judge? Did the results achieved justify my fee?

At about the same time I was pondering these questions, Lauren and I were certified in a methodology called Stakeholder Centered Coaching pioneered by executive coaching legend Marshall Goldsmith. In essence, the coach first identifies the client’s key stakeholders (peers, direct reports, and bosses.) Stakeholders are critical to the process as they are people best in a position to: 1) identify the client’s existing leadership shortcomings, 2) give specific and immediate suggestions for ways to improve and 3) assess progress towards desired change. The stakeholders, in essence, are turned into collaborative partners in the coaching process. (Scenario II describes a Stakeholder Centered Coaching engagement, which is the approach Lauren and I now use in our engagements.)

The result? A quantifiable assessment that is hard to “game” by either the coach or the client. (Another side benefit to the Stakeholder Centered approach is that it tends to greatly improve the quality of conversations across the organization, but that’s the subject of another article!)

Coaching represents a big investment in time, money and effort for the client and your organization. Make sure you get a fair return on your investment by asking the questions below before you hire a coach. Does their process look more like Scenario I or II? Does it provide good answers to each of the questions below?

1. What does success look like and who gets to decide?

    • How does the coach define success for the coaching engagement? What about the client? The boss? HR? How is failure defined?
    • How will progress be measured, along the way, and at the end? Is it quantifiable?
    • Who reports progress/results? Is it self-reported (client, coach) or by third parties (e.g. anonymous surveys, stakeholders)

2. What are you paying for (or, if you are the coach, what are you getting paid for)?

    • Are you paying for process/activities (e.g. billable hours spent) or measurable results?
    • Are you having to pay the coaching (consulting) fee no matter what the outcome of the engagement or is the coach’s fee at least partly dependant on the success of the engagement?

3. What is the process?

    • Is the coach able to clearly articulate the process (note: coaching is not (anymore) simply a series of conversations)?
    • Does the coaching only happen in private, behind closed doors, or is the process attempting at building leverage across the organization (e.g. by including various stakeholders)?
    • Is the coaching engagement clearly scoped? Does everyone agree what is being worked on and what is not being worked on? How do you prevent scope creep?
For a detail description of our coaching process, visit our website at Redpoint Coaching.