Cause and Success: Four People That Stand in Your Way

Heather Furby

January 18, 2018

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Happy New Year! I get giddy with new year excitement of having lots of new projects and workshops to create and deliver to awesome women like you. Do you get excited over the new year? Or are you sitting at a desk wondering, "Where has the time gone, and why am I still feeling stuck?"

I get it. For me, 2017 was a rough year. I made some big mistakes and surrounded myself with a few people that ended up taking a lot more energy away from projects than adding to the feeling of success.

While no one can truly "stand in your way" but yourself, we often fail to notice some personalities and behaviors of our team members that are destructive to the rest of our team. Honestly, we DO usually "notice" them, but due to not wanting confrontation or not having the communication skills necessary to navigate the situation, we avoid it and pretend the person or the behavior does not exist.

However, if you fail to notice or act upon these people and their behaviors, you will guarantee your spot on the "Failure to Thrive" list and find this year of success passing you by.

The good news is if you learn to recognize the damaging behaviors and quickly take action, you can turn your leadership headaches into a highly effective and productive team that impresses your executives and investors.

Reminder: We are not in the business of communication to change other people. We look at personalities, communication, and core energies to understand how we see the world and then learn how to make previous obstacles work for us, rather than against us.

The Four People That "Stand in Your Way"

People management is a full-time job. However, most of us are not granted the freedom only to manage people. We are working hard to complete our part of the business puzzle, project, or product, and management people.

The following are summaries of Four Disruptive Behaviors you may find on your team, what you need to know about underlying causes, and what to do to turn the behavior into productivity. I suggest bookmarking this article and coming back to reference it when you run into team problems.

1. The Intimidator—Deadlines have been missed. Your project has stalled. Your product meeting is going on and on . . . and on. The Intimidator is the first one to stand up and yell, "Just make it happen!" or she storms out saying, "UGH! I'll do it myself!" The Intimidator loses interest in discovering the real problems holding up the project and becomes focused on the need to move forward no matter what—even if that means threatening contractors, other team members, or ignoring agreements.

Intimidators have learned to be more "refined" so their language will be softer, such as, "It'll just be easier if I do this myself" or "Is this meeting going to last long?", but the key is that she is willing to risk everything to take action and feel in control.

What to know: The Intimidator is seeking control. She feels helpless, and her natural reaction is to regain control in any way possible. She focuses on getting tasks done because she values results more than any other aspects of business. The problem is, she confuses
taking action with getting results.

This urge to take action can lead to overlooking necessary details. Although team members and clients may initially be intrigued by her "get results" attitude, they will eventually see that focus is short-term, and she is likely overriding any plan that has been put in place.

Allowing the intimidator to run unchecked will cause the rest of the members to think about leaving. They're also focused on outcomes, and they're serious about fulfillment, follow through, relationship-building, and idea-refinement. The Intimidator bulldozes right through leaving a path of destruction that others are constantly forced to clean up.

"Why am I here?" starts to ring true, and the team, one by one, heads for the exit.

How to turn it around: The key to helping the intimidator build a lasting contribution to your team is to allow her to focus on results. She is successful because she gets things done; she takes personal responsibility and is usually driven by the desire to focus on current tasks. Recognize that she learns by doing and does not want to be stifled by rote learning or highly structured settings. Intimidators need to be reminded to think through problems to find a solution and not always act on impulse or blind faith.

Allow her to be in charge of her work so that she feels in control. Use "back of the napkin" strategy sessions that are related to decisive action rather than long team meetings with little progress.

Do not ask her to spend time talking and analyzing why something works or doesn't work, but ask her to define the problem at hand and what she thinks would be the best course of action. Then, let her go get the results.

Example: Assign her a portion of the product pitch and allow her to work independently to prepare and present; give her projects that involve making quick decisions with little information.

Outcome: When the behavior of The Intimidator is turned into contribution, you will have a well-respected, powerful business leader who is determined to achieve lasting results for your business. She will lead by example, make quick decisions, and drive the company toward success.

2. The Moral Flip-Flopper—Your project deadline is rapidly approaching. You feel the tension building. You were sure you could count on this one person to stay to the end, to lend a hand, to stay with you while your ship is headed into stormy waters—but in fact, you've found that she took the last life preserver and commandeered the first dingy out.

The Moral Flip-Flopper will often suggest a solution that seems contrary to the fundamental beliefs of the company, themselves, and you. A person you thought to be organized and driven suddenly appears inconsistent and frazzled; her language quickly changes from, "Let's do this" to, "Why do I have to do this?"

What to know: Anyone can act in ways that seem out of alignment when the pressure is growing. However, The Moral Flip-Flopper is trying to get back in alignment by coming up with ways to see the situation in a different light. If her attempts to build relationships, create a new vision, or interpret data are rejected, or if she perceives them as rejected, she will start revising her long-term vision for this rejection to make sense.

Allowing The Moral Flip-Flopper to remain on your team will lead the rest of your company into a state of confusion. You will waste valuable time "working out issues" that should be spent on completing tasks. Investors or clients will see a trail of incomplete visions and projects and accuse your company of not being focused.

How to turn it around: You will want to carve out blocks of time with The Moral Flip-Flopper to discuss what is working and what can be done differently. She most likely identifies with the company or project mission on a deeply personal level, which is why she takes all feedback personally. Help her make a real impact by showing her how she contributes to the overall vision.

She succeeds because she has an appreciation for the "look and feel" of products and presentations and wants to deliver remarkable value and high-quality service. When she is allowed to ignite her passion, she inspires other people on the team and will help them perform better. She thrives on being part of a high-energy, forward-thinking team, so acknowledge and value her contribution of enthusiasm.

Provide open and flexible support systems, with lots of face-to-face time discussions. Allow her to work in a team environment, where ideas for future opportunities are encouraged and are allowed to float free for a while (brainstorming).

Do not overwhelm her with research, data analysis, and long information sessions, but ask her to interact and talk through ideas, recognizing that what seems like an inconsistency in ideas is her being in constant process and course correcting as she speaks.

Example: Assign her the overall look and feel of the presentation so she can work with all other team members and give the pitch a cohesive feel (including the aesthetics and details of the pitch deck); give her projects that allow for freedom of thought and the ability to provide ideas that do not require immediate action.

Outcome: When The Moral Flip-Flopper is in alignment, she will be an engaged risk taker. She can open new markets and provide endless opportunities for growth. She will contribute vision, enthusiasm, and commitment as a team builder and deal maker.

3. The Finger Pointer—"It's not my fault!" When things get hectic, this is a common response from The Finger Pointer. Crises are rarely one person's fault, but this individual is looking to jump ship before they are named, blamed, or shamed. While everyone is diligently working on their part of the project launch, The Finger Pointer is often found looking over their shoulders pointing out what is not going well.

The Finger Pointer is also the one who will force your team to work late into the night to add "just one more feature" to the product or presentation because "it's not quite perfect." However, if the product fails to launch, they will quickly resort to clever thinking and fast cover up to make it look like someone else's problem.

What to know: Oddly enough, The Finger Pointer is busy pointing fingers because she is scared to look foolish. When she feels backed into a corner with deadlines or the need to launch a product before she sees it as perfect, she can become clever, deceitful, and a distraction to your team. She is perfectly willing to present two opposing and equally strong arguments to throw your team into indecision to take the focus off her.

Allowing The Finger Pointer to remain on your team will keep everyone else in chaos, indecision, and anger. No one can keep up with The Finger Pointer's ability to confuse a situation with irrelevant facts and blaming other people for problems. She has a unique capacity to throw in additional layers of complexity that keeps your team from reaching a decision. Team members and clients will begin to feel "less than smart" in her presence and look for an opportunity that makes them feel better . . . elsewhere.

How to turn it around: Since The Finger Pointer is doing everything not to look foolish, you can help her become a valuable team member by focusing on her clever contributions and problem-solving capability. Her wisdom is that she can see the basic facts and apply them to all possible outcomes, thus conceiving new designs, systems, and products.

Understand that she is driven by compassion, even though she can appear stubborn or uncooperative. She can understand the why and the underlying motivations of others on the team so she will succeed when she is allowed to contribute solutions. She will put her ego at risk over and over again, be willing to fail over and over as long as she is respected because she is invested in knowing she will be able to come up with a plan, a solution, or an idea that will make things better.

Make time to sit down and analyze what went well and what this person can improve. She generally has an opinion of how to make it better so go ahead and ask about it! Ask a lot of questions that engage her brain.

Reassure her of her strengths by having her work near, but not always in a team. She loves to explore her ideas with people; she likes to see her ideas put into action by others; she is perceptive and willing to change her behavior when she sees that she is respected by others and is shown how different behaviors will produce better results.

Do not provide her answers (she'll tell you you're wrong) but feel free to throw her your hardest problems and let her assess, evaluate, postulate, and solve.

Example: Assign her the business model and growth opportunities portion of the pitch presentation, and allow her to come up with out-of-the-box solutions; give her projects that allow for brainstorming, innovation, and strategic thinking.

Outcome: When The Finger Pointer knows she is respected, she will be your key to success. There is not a problem she can't solve. Her contribution will open market opportunities and resolve conflicts with vendors, customers, and other team members. She will make ongoing success turn from a dream to reality because lack of funding, downturns in the economy, or the need for a breakthrough invention become "just another problem to solve."

4. The Silent Judger—As launch day approaches and everyone else is running around shouting orders or upselling features, you may find The Silent Judger in the corner saying, "It can't be done." She'll do the opposite of panicking or intimidating. Although she looks quiet, The Silent Judger is watching and taking names. She'll outlast all others in her game of refusing to play.

Next thing you know, you're getting incomplete reports, inadequate information, and computer-encrypted files you can't access that contains the information you need. There is no way to get her to budge. It's as futile as pulling a goat on a leash.

What to know: The Silent Judger is looking to see that information she provided is being used wisely. If she explained why something wouldn't work, and you and your team decided to do it anyway, she will be determined to see to it that you fail . . . then show up with, "I told you it couldn't be done that way." She is doing everything in her power to make sure that she does not appear ignorant. While chaos reigns, The Silent Judger is looking to figure out why the problem happened and how to never let it happen again.

Early stage development of products or projects requires experimental strategies and an open, creative environment. This agenda is contrary to that of The Silent Judger. She is preoccupied with organizing, analyzing, and preserving systems rather than creating a dynamic team.

New teams and clients need a constant flow of information. Allowing The Silent Judger to remain on your team and possibly stand in the way of getting this information to the right people at the right time (because they don't approve of the way it's being used or why it's needed), will kill your chances of gathering support, sales, and funding.

How to turn it around: The important thing to remember to turn The Silent Judger into a valuable asset on your team is to recognize and use the information she gives you in the way she intended. If you cannot use it, take the time to explain why rather than simply disregarding it and moving on to the next thing. She is driven by ensuring the success of any project in which she's involved. She will be successful when she is allowed to gather data, knowledge, and turn ideas into tasks while others are being creative inventing the next big thing.

She will be a wealth of information about what has worked or not worked in the past, so utilize her as a resource. She may not be an appropriate team member for an early stage startup, but she is necessary when you're ready to move from quick ideas and implementation to a sustainable, successful company.

Give her projects that require data collection and information gathering, and then use that data to complete the project.

Allow her to create a structured environment for herself (yes, even if you thrive on chaos for creativity).

Don't ask her to make impromptu presentations, quick decisions, or find a solution to an abstract problem. Remember, she will not believe she has all of the necessary information and shut down.

Example: Assign her the data, analytics, and reporting modules of the pitch; allow her time to analyze the research or entire presentation to supply missing facts and figures.

Outcome: The Silent Judger will turn into your most trusted ally when you use her information wisely. She will help you challenge the viability of your idea or project because she can show you how to repeat past successes and stay clear of the failures. She keeps you from taking an unreasonable risk, will strive to have an answer ready when your team needs it and will provide attention to detail and follow through that so many companies lack.


To recognize and combat negative influences, you must be willing to take a deeper look at who surrounds you, and decide if they are the right fit for the direction of your company or project. Your success in business depends on your ability to bring the right people into the right positions at the right time. It takes tremendous courage to make decisions about your team, but it is critical to the future of your idea, project, or company.

There is no such thing as a self-made success. No matter how driven you are, no matter how big your vision, or how amazing your breakthrough technology, you cannot succeed in business alone. Successful and sustainable business owners know that building a team is imperative to success, yet so many of us tolerate the wrong people on our team, thus getting results that take us in the wrong direction.

What you don't know about your team could kill your success. Don't wait until a crisis, or until you're facing closed doors, to make adjustments to your team. Learn to be a strong leader so that you can bring out the best behaviors of your team and be confident that everyone is performing at their best—in both good and bad times.

As always, reach out to me with any questions or concerns you have about your team, and let's see if we can alter the course of your success.

Heather Furby, creator of Cause And Success, is a business strategist and innovator in leadership development. She is director of a business leadership summer camp where adults explore and discover new levels of leadership without risking reputation, business progress, or hurting trusted teams. Results of working with Heather are accelerated profits, increased team productivity, faster decision making, and solid communication skills, but more importantly, you have fun on the journey.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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