EP – 9 Interview with David Deane-Spread, how to deal with difficult people

David is a hostage negotiator for business. He helps businesses that are having toxic people problems to turn it around in 90 days. David explains some of the issues that plague businesses and how to identify them. David’s consulting firm Metattude has help a wide range of businesses. Get in touch with David at https://www.metattude.com/ or https://www.linkedin.com/in/daviddeanespread/


Hello, and welcome to the business octopus, where we talk about all things sales, marketing and technology. I’m Avon, Collis CRM and marketing automation specialists at relevant and all around good guy. And today I am joined with David Dean spread from metta tude. How to talk about how to deal with difficult people. Welcome, David, how are you?

I’m good. I’m thanks very much for having me. I really appreciate it.

No worries at all. So David helps business owners and leaders resolve difficult people issues rapidly. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could solve them all really, really quickly, and just get it over with and get on with things. And you know, one of the next most important thing is being deeply aligned within the leadership team on the leadership cohort. So David, how does someone know if they have a problem?

Yeah, that’s a great question. They have a problem if they are noticing people being absent, people withholding effort. In other words, not doing as much as they could or, or not wanting to do extra work. people leaving the business good people leaving the business. a whole range of issues there are people working in silos. People not helping one another. Just saying no, that’s not in my it’s not in my job description. Those sorts of comments, and people avoiding one another.


And one of the one of the hardest things to face. I’ve honest people who, the leaders themselves who are difficult. And very often their people won’t tell them the truth. Yeah. And they won’t know that they’re being difficult. They don’t mean to be difficult. I’ve never found anyone, generally speaking, who comes to work to say today, I’m going to be difficult. Yeah. difficult. People don’t mean to be difficult. There’s always a reason. And it’s really having the time the expertise. And the techniques are then able to discover those reasons, and work rapidly on them. Hmm, yeah.

So obviously, there’s been lots of people that have had difficult clients or difficult employees or difficult team members. Like, I’m sure that there’s times when you know, someone’s just having an off day, or someone is just, you know, just not good at something. And so they’re frustrated, so they don’t perform at it. what’s what’s the sort of the fine line that sort of says, All right, well, they’re in that territory of, they’re actually starting to become a problem.

So this really, it’s down to the immediate, excuse me, the immediate supervisor, the extent to which they are actually engaged and aware of how their team members are going. And the moment you see something not working, or something that’s been delivered below standard, or a withholding of effort. The first thing that the leader does that supervisor does, is to really have a conversation, like a heads up conversation. But let’s say it was you. And, and I was your supervisor, and I noticed that this is the second time this week, you’ve told me you’re going to deliver something and you didn’t do it. I then say, hey, let’s have this have a meeting, I need to understand something, I might need to be giving you some more help. But But you know, this is twice now you’ve told me you’re going to do something, and it hasn’t happened. Can you help me understand what what’s behind that? Is there something that I’ve done? Is there something that that needs you need help on?

I think I think that sort of says a lot. And I know that there’s a there’s a statement or a phrase sort of a standard you walk past as a standard you accept. And so the next, I guess component of that is you sort of highlighted that sometimes it’s not always the employee, maybe there’s other priorities. There’s another problem out there. Maybe they’ve just prioritize the wrong thing. And there’s maybe not a meeting of the minds.

Is that accurate? Absolutely. Right. It’s a really good point. And it’s almost if we want to look at a military perspective, you got to do the reconnaissance. You can’t just go in and jump in where angels fear to tread. You got to sit down and have a discovery conversation with that person to find out, you know, what, what are the circumstances around it? without rushing to judgment?

Yeah, I think that’s that’s sometimes a very hard one. I don’t know that as a business owner will like have a smaller business. They quite personally invested in all of those things. So sometimes that that supervisor is the direct owner of the business is that Is that a challenge? That’s common?

Yeah, it is. And it’s compounded by the fact that if that person’s actually, now the person who’s providing the problem, if that person also happens to be in a key position, and the the owner or the supervisors quite reluctant to, to make the situation worse.

I think that’s sort of like, if you just not approachable then people gotten, don’t tell them. And then it gets worse and festers and then it explodes into something bigger later on. Yeah,

absolutely. And then and then they have to act. And then of course, it’s a big drama. In the meantime, though, there’s a lot of, you know, there’s productivity, and productivity and performance issues come to hand. The supervisors going to be stressed just over that, then over, over not doing something they know they need to do.

Yeah, absolutely.

No, knowing how,

so why does a business need to address it?

Because the, because of the cost, the cost to the business of difficult people, it causes it, if you’ve got that kind of culture in the business where difficult people are being tolerated. Maybe because they actually might be high value people as well. But at the same time difficult, is a whole bunch of other people are going to be impacted by that their productivity goes down. Yeah. And and and if the if there are people who are being difficult in the business, and their behaviors difficult that they manage difficult, guess what, that’s how that’s how the clients are going to be treated to.

You hear a lot of these, I guess, personality matching things like Myers, Briggs, kizi, or disc profile? Do they help with any of that at all?

Look, that’s a really great question. And yes, the answer, the short answer is yes. I tend to shy away from the personality ones. I prefer to go to those reputable profiling tools that actually talk about things that you can see. Mr. Briggs, we’ll talk about personality, but you can’t see personality, what we actually see is behavior and communication styles. But there’s

also interpretation of those as well.

Yeah, absolutely. And so, so the, so I do profile, my clients, but at five levels, behavior, communication, motivation, EQ, and, you know, emotional intelligence, and also their acumen or their values thinking, which is called axiology. And that’s, that’s a deep profile. And the more crucial the person is to the business, the more we go into having that aspect measure. Hmm, yeah.

So what about, obviously, with with that, you know, profiling different people and understanding them? Like, how much weight would you give to something like that.


if I was going to spit up the the track record, and the current behavior is the most important bit, the profile will either show up possibilities, or it will back it up. But I’ll give it about a 30% waiting. Yeah, I think 70% it has to be around, you know, what you can see and observe and track record and their responses, their behavior.

And the moment, I think that’s quite important, I think, you know, things like the disc profile have been given a lot of attention. And I think most of it is just good marketing. I know that there’s been comments around the Myers Briggs, one being largely about an unproven theory that’s never really been tested. And yet it was popularized by a couple of books and and got adopted, adopted quite broadly. But there’s no real, real founding or fact on it. And I think also, too, that one of these profiling things is not a magic bullet to tell you what the issue is. And I think that having an understanding that you should take from multiple perspectives in order to or multiple evidence points, multiple source reporting, if you if you’d like to understand and get to the crux of the issue. I think a lot of times people are looking for a quick and easy answer.

Look, I totally agree. I mean, at the end of the day, the best way forward, is, is not just the profile certainly, as I said that’s got about a 30 because Waiting over all the conversations that you have with the people are the most crucial, and what do you actually observe? You know, the actual evidence of what you see them doing or not doing? And how they respond in the conversation. You know, are they are they being open? Are they being honest? Are they being at a withholding? You know, what’s the body language telling you? And you don’t judge the body language, you ask questions. stimulated by the body language. Yeah. If you get my drift.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So if they’re starting to sweat a little bit more, maybe you’re onto something. So

yeah, there are certain, you know, my facial mannerisms and muscle muscle twitches, that, that you shouldn’t judge, but you, it leads you to ask more questions.

Yes, I think the term is micro expressions, and they might influence your your line of questioning rather than, you know, guide it. But so what if left on check? How long would it take for an issue to start causing a problematic impact on the business?

Then that’s a difficult question to actually nail down you can’t give that depends on the volatility of that person’s temperament. And the circumstances in which they’re operating? Is it? Is it a fast moving process chain? Or is it a slow moving? documentary? Checking process depends, you know, like, the difference between a difficult person say in, in a fire station in the fire brigade, where you’ve got, you know, first responders, and it’s all action, that that has a big impact if there’s a difficult person, or getting in the way of that, versus, you know, a, an insurance claim being processed

incorrectly. Yeah, yeah. But then I guess, you’ve got the concept of the, the insider threat. So having someone with a position of power access to a lot of information. You know, we mentioned before, some some military examples, you know, there was a guy in the US was felt a bit downtrodden by his fellow man, and he’s physician and so he stoled secrets to, to get back at people mostly. And, and, you know, very quickly went to did a lot of time in prison, and I’m sure he’s still there. But I guess, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s impacts and impacts, like, how much of an activist are they? How much are they? There’s a term it’s called fatalists, where it’s like, if you’re a little bit against me, you’re totally against me. And so you actually lash out and react. So? Yeah, maybe that’s where

the tracks come in. Well, then the motivation for most people who do the wrong thing deliberately is revenge or profit. And sometimes there’s both. Yeah. And in fact, in in my law enforcement days in the car innovation of informants, they were always motivated by revenge or profit.

Yeah, I guess that’s when someone’s actively doing something nefarious instead of just turning up late or can’t be bothered, or it’ll do, they’ll pass the job along. So I think that there’s a distinction potentially between, say, intentionally doing the wrong thing versus a lack of intention to do the right thing.

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s a passive, there’s a passive and an active.

Yeah, no worse than I used. Absolutely.

Absolutely. So I mean, most of the time, we’re dealing with disgruntled, dysfunctional demoralized people. Yeah. Right. And they are the people who they actually make too big a part of, of every workforce.

Hmm. And I heard something about 80% of, or 83, or some ridiculous number of percentage of employees are disengaged, or not fully engaged.

Correct. And if you’re in you know, yeah. And some large companies like the bhps, and what have you. And government departments are notorious for a high level of that. I would say that most small businesses that I deal with it’s a different number. It’s about 50%. From my personal experience, that I don’t have, I mean, I don’t know that that you could use that across industry. But I do notice as a higher level of engagement in in smaller businesses, and a lot of that depends on the On the nature of the leadership, you know, it ultimately boils down to how they’re being led. Yeah.

I think, you know, perhaps in leader in large institutions, you’ve probably got like minimum standards, you fall below, and you’re out. You, you sort of drift along in the middle, you’re okay. But then, you know, in smaller businesses, it’s more about the top line and your capacity, your performance, your desire your drive. And I think that there’s this space between the two is significant. So someone can coast along, and just enough not to get fired, and be just as much, you know, and follow all the rules and tick all the boxes and still be a drain on the business.

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And that that was that leadership, you know, the leadership? How, how engaged is the leadership? how aware, are they? How much do they care? In the smaller businesses? They know they got skin in the game? Yeah. In the larger businesses, they die. There’s just other people’s money. Yeah, there’s a different level of motivation.

Yeah, absolutely. So what are some tips for business leaders.

But the to monitor, I’ll give you an example. I worked with a company just a while ago, but their leadership team, their senior leadership team, and there are eight of them. And I had them in a room and I said, Look, how aligned would you think you are? In a market out of 10? That everyone this room, mark out of 10, and just go around the room and tell me, and they all Mark themselves pretty highly up in the eights in the act of the house? Or the internet. Okay, so I’ve got this little survey I want you to do right now. Do it on your mobile phone. And I gave them the link. And they did this seven asked in 10 questions. I said I’m now I’m going to anonymize your answers. And here and I spat out the results and gave them the results. And they were horrified. They did not no one agreed on the level of trust within the group. No one agreed on what the vision was.


Most of them did not know, the values other than the obvious ones. Yeah. And they had no idea of the the numbers that they had to achieve over the next 90 days. So they it showed the business leader, that and the leadership themselves that they assume they’re aligned. Yeah. And I make the assumption they align. Because, after all, when they have the meetings, the meetings go Well, yes, yeah. You know, and and people say, Yes, a lot. Yeah. But then they get back into their silo. So my tip for the leader is to go deep, and double check how aligned your leadership actually really is. And then when you when you discover, to your shock, maybe that you’re not any nowhere near as aligned as you thought you were. Just imagine what that does to the business, with people pulling in different teams, whole teams, pulling in different directions, the waste of resources, the waste of time and the waste of money. And so they need to have a look at that. So the tip there number one tip is first of all, how are ask yourself, how deeply aligned is your leadership team? Find out? And then if you know that it needs work, do not try and do it yourselves? Because that won’t work. If you need an external facilitator with too much bias, yes, absolutely. Too much bars too much vested interest and not enough objectivity. Hmm. So that on the one hand, and on the other hand, have a look at your, your, your statistics in terms of absenteeism. You know, how many people are on sick, sick leave? How many people don’t want to do extra work? or extra time? And and what your turn, you know, employee turnover rates? Yeah, the only thing I have if they’re over 10% you’re in trouble. You got a problem? Yeah. And the biggest tip and this is gonna be the hardest one for them to do. Look in the mirror. Have a good look in the mirror, have a look at yourself later. And ask yourself to what extent Am I part of the problem?

In the words of the late great Michael Jackson, take a look at yourself and make a change.

Correct? Yes, indeed.

So what do business owners really understand the impacts? Like what what’s the what’s the worst case that could happen out of all of these problems?

business goes under?

Obviously, yeah, that’s very much a worst case. But I mean, really is.

And often it’s that, look, they don’t, it’ll show up in the inability to keep clients inability to make sales. Yeah, it was the the, the money’s not coming in anymore. And the costs are too high. Yeah. And so you really are getting into trouble. So that’s what will happen. If you don’t attend to the core issues around difficult people and misaligned leadership, that just spoils the whole culture of the business. And yet, it is the quickest thing you can do. And the cheapest thing you can do is to have a 90 day program that that eradicate those problems. Some of those problems, some people might need to go. Yes. And they replaced. Yeah. But most of them, most of them can be turned around.

Yeah, yes. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of contentious things around like employee awards and and redundancies and how hard it is to fire someone. Does that play into it all?

It does. Yeah. In small industry, in small business, there’s more opportunity to replace people. The the laws, not as as fairly balanced, I think. When you start talking about larger organizations, that there are political issues there. Yeah. And then when you talk about government, it’s a whole different ballgame. I mean, I’ve recently worked in a government department where this person was passive aggressive. And he was a giant, he was six foot nine, massive guy, and for 30, for 20 years, he’d been a behavioral problem in his department, and no one had done anything about it. Wow. And then he was then given a new boss in the new boss was a young, professional, female. He said, I’m not tolerating this anymore. Hmm. And then took action. And one of that one of those was to bring me in. But before that, she had gone to HR and said, You know, I’ve got this problem. And I’ve my research shows that he’s been the problem for at least 20 years, and no one’s done anything about it. Why are we Why can’t we move them on? I mean, he’s, he’s breached values that he’s fireable offenses. Yeah. Ah, ah, ah, ah said, No, we don’t do that around here. You have to work out how to work with him.


we wonder where our taxes are going.

We know where they’re going. We know where they’re going. Yeah. It is a disheartening. state of affairs. Yes. But small business doesn’t have the same issue. But they do often not know how to broach the subject. Yeah, how do I deal with this person is this person loses his temper too quickly. I don’t want to make it worse. Even though he’s, you know, difficult. He’s actually does good work. And I think when he’s on He’s good.

Yeah, I think it’s easier for someone third party to come out and lay the the chips on the table, without end can be you know, they can be frustrated at you they can be they can, you know, hate you for it or whatever, because you’re gonna go and then the relationships between the people directly can still be protected. There’s no like, personal animosity to say you said this about me. And I didn’t like it.

Correct. Correct. And we also, though, I do empower the business owner and the leader to have those conversations, because the skill, the real skill set here is how do we effectively deal with unacceptable behavior and performance? And keep trust and respect with those people? Yeah. And that’s a skill set that that’s the, and that’s a conversational skill set. Yeah, that would, which is I’m really wanting to, that’s my mission to impart that to business owners and leaders. Yes, they can do that. Yeah,

yeah. So basically a toolbox of things that they can use.

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Because not only not only do they not want to lose respect, but those people but all the people in in the rest of the business looking on, you know, it’s hard to keep is sacred and a small business.

Yeah, absolutely, yeah. walk out the door and it’s done. And then like teams and chat messages and all these things going on in the background that you’ll never say so. Absolutely. Other than I think, I think you’ve given some really powerful things for for business owners and leaders to use and to think about here today. So I thank you very much for coming on the episode and telling us about how to deal with those difficult issues and deal with those difficult people. If you’re listening, and you’d like to learn more about David at multitude, you can go to medicare.com. And you’ll find out more about David on his LinkedIn profile. And I’ll add both those links in the comments on the on the podcast post. And if you’re listening, thank you for listening today. And if you’ve got any questions, or you’d like to be on the show, you can go to relevant Comdata you and fill out a contact form. But otherwise, thank you so much for your time today, David, it was great.

Thanks, Evan. I really appreciate it. It’s really been great to be here.

No worries. Thank you all and take care. You can learn more about implementing scalable systems in your business with our book, the business octopus, where you can learn how to give your business a brain and teach you to grow itself. You can get your copy from relevant.com.edu slash octopus. You can also find answers and ask questions in our online community at support relevant.com.au