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Her finger hovered over send...

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Milly opened her emails and typed up an email inviting Patrick to a big showdown meeting.

She would put him in his place.

Her finger hovered over send...

Milly was a marketing executive who managed a team of 8 marketers.

She wanted to grow her department enough that she wouldn't have to work on the tools.

Milly's goal was to learn how to manage her marketing team and get a case study of growing this business.

Then, she'd be able to land a job at a bigger company.

Patrick was the problem.

Milly didn't know what to do about him.

Managing Patrick was pulling her focus away from other people in her team.

Results were slipping.

What if this stopped her getting a job at a larger company?

Milly didn't know how to conflict with Patrick because he was more qualified than her.

He had a Phd in content marketing.

He came across as smart and likable to people who didn't work with him.

Then one month, Patrick's behaviour went downhill.

Patrick had always been a handful.

Now Milly had other team members in her office.

"Working with Patrick is unbearable," one colleague said.

The company's marketing results were tanking.

She could see her dreams of moving up the corporate ladder disappearing.

Milly had to do something about Patrick's behaviour.

She was a calm person.

But in that moment she was furious at Patrick.

Milly opened her emails and typed up an email inviting Patrick to a big showdown meeting.

She would put him in his place.

Her finger hovered over send.

Instead, she saved it to drafts and decided to sleep on it.

The next day, she talked to her friend Peter over coffee.

Milly still hadn't sent the email.

She told him her frustrations with Patrick.

"I don't know what to do. But I know I have to do something."

After listening for half an hour, Peter told her about my book Step Up or Step Out.

He'd bought it a few months ago but never mentioned it to Milly.

Peter explained some of the basic ideas of the book to her.

Milly got in touch with me that day.

In my first coaching session with Milly, we talked about how to have healthy conflict.

Together we made a plan for her to approach Patrick.

Milly asked Patrick to catch up.

As the meeting approached, Milly was nervous.

When Patrick sat down in her office, she could see the defensiveness in his eyes.

"This isn't going to work," Milly thought.

She took a deep breath and jumped into the conversation anyway.

Milly started with an apology.

"I'm sorry, Patrick. I haven't given you clear expectations. I want to work on that as your leader."

As Milly continued speaking, she could see Patrick get less defensive.

He must have been expecting something bad.

Milly asked Patrick what he saw as the expectations for his role.

He listed a few things she would have mentioned herself.

Milly listened to Patrick talk for 20 minutes.

She stayed quiet and attentive.

She noticed Patrick hadn't said anything about the company culture.

She wasn't sure how to raise the topic.

"I'm sorry to interrupt," she said, "but what about company culture?"

"What do you mean?" Patrick replied.

"Well, what about company culture? Things like how you should treat other staff and your attitude?"

"Hmm," Patrick frowned. "I haven't given that much thought."

Milly breathed a sigh of relief.

They talked about their thoughts and decided they were mostly in agreement.

Patrick even agreed to some expectations that Milly knew he hadn't been fulfilling.

Milly made a mental note that Patrick might not be as self-aware as she first assumed.

Towards the end of the meeting, Milly asked Patrick to think about what they'd discussed.

She asked him to come back to her with his thoughts.

Milly also said she would give clear and early feedback if she saw him not meeting any expectations.

After the meeting, Milly prepared herself for her first small battle with Patrick.

The following week after the meeting was great.

Milly didn't have to pick a single battle.

Then Patrick's behaviour changed...

Patrick's colleagues told Milly he was hard to work with again.

So Milly started picking small battles with Patrick.

The first small battle was about a missed deadline.

Milly popped her head into Patrick's office the day after he missed the deadline.

She confronted him.

Then Milly saw Patrick's bad attitude during a meeting.

He was rude to a team member.

So Milly spoke to him after the meeting and told him what she'd noticed.

She reminded him she'd promised to tell him when he didn't meet an expectation.

Both conversations were difficult.

Patrick seemed frustrated during the second conversation.

Milly remained calm.

The small battles continued for the next two weeks.

Over the next six months the worst behaviours stopped.

But Milly's fears about Patrick's lack of self-awareness proved true.

Patrick created a mess for Milly to clean up every couple of months.

The messes were small though.

So the team wasn't bogged down with Patrick's toxic behaviour anymore.

Results improved.

The company grew so much that Milly's team expanded to 20.

She moved off the tools.

Milly even stopped looking for another job at executive level.

The job was stretching her.

Milly used to not like coming into work because she had to deal with Patrick.

But Milly knows how to handle him now.

She even enjoys leading him.

Now she loves coming into work every day with her high-performance team.

Are you scared of conflict?

Click here to download my Conflict Masterclass on How To Deal With Difficult People
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