Maximising the Impact: How to Use ‘The Nine Types of Difficult People’ Effectively 📘

Improving workplace relationships can be tricky, especially when dealing with challenging personalities!

My book, ‘The Nine Types of Difficult People‘, is designed to be your guide through this maze. But how can you get the most out of it?

Here are some tips:

🔍 Understand the Layout

  • Chapter Two is Your Starting Point: It sets the foundation for the rest of the book. Start here to quickly understand my overall approach and how to apply it.
  • The Matrix of Difficult People: Took a look at this tool in the early chapters. It’s crucial for identifying and understanding the different types you might encounter.

🤔 Reflect on Your Situation

  • Identify Your Difficult Person: Use the matrix and descriptions to help pinpoint the type of difficult person you’re dealing with.
  • Context Matters: Consider your role in relation to the difficult person – are you their leader, colleague, or team member?

📝 Apply the Strategies

  • Tailored Approaches: Improving relationships works best with the right strategy. Find the chapter that corresponds to your identified type and explore that.
  • Practical Tips and Tactics: Implement the suggested strategies in your day-to-day interactions.

🔄 Iterate and Adapt

  • Not a One-Time Read: Your first pass through the book is great beginning and often leads to some useful quick-wins. Return to the relevant sections as your situation evolves.
  • Stay Flexible: Be prepared to adjust your approach as you learn more about the individual and the dynamics involved.

🔗 Connect the Dots

  • Beyond the Individual: Use the insights from the book to enhance the overall team dynamics and culture in your workplace.
  • Share Your Learnings: Discuss concepts from the book with colleagues to help build a more understanding, collaborative and effective working environment.

Dealing with difficult people is both a mindset and a skillset that can be easily developed. My book is here to guide you, and the real change happens through your application of these strategies in the real world.

Let’s make work a place where everyone can be at their best!

Were problems at OpenAI caused by Sam Altman being a ‘Difficult Revolutionary”?

In my new book, ‘The 9 Types of Difficult People’, I write about what can go wrong when someone who readily embraces change fails to bring all of their stakeholders along on the journey.

A Revolutionary is someone who:

★ Is usually a self-starting, enthusiastic person
★ Is great at discovering out new ideas and different approaches
★ Readily embraces change; and
★ Will push for fast and wide-ranging transformation regardless of its wider implications.

In the right circumstances, these are terrific qualities. But things can go wrong at work if this kind of person:

★ Exceeds the boundaries of what’s expected of them
★ Goes faster than their allies and supporters can deal with
★ Overlooks the slow and iterative political consensus building that other people often need before being ready to support and adopt new ideas.

At the time this article is published, there has been lots of coverage in the press about OpenAI founder Sam Altman’s firing by its board.

Altman’s career so far, his transition from selling Loop, joining Y Combinator and then to OpenAI, and the pace of change there, certainly share some of the characteristics of a Difficult Revolutionary that I’m looking out for.

According to The Guardian Sam Altman was fired because he “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board”. When staff warned that Altman’s departure could trigger OpenAI’s collapse, The Guardian reports, the board said this would “be consistent with the mission”.

Without knowing more about what’s happening behind those boardroom doors, we can’t say for sure if that failure to bring stakeholders along is exactly what’s happened here – but it looks like it might be!

☞ So, if you’re on the Board of an organisation with a Revolutionary at its helm, or if you’re a Revolutionary yourself, what should you do to create great working relationships?

🙃 More than anything, leaders of a Revolutionary need to be working hard to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Checking that their agendas are aligned, discussing what is and isn’t acceptable to aim for, and making sure the wrong bridges don’t get burned. That leadership is vital in keeping a Revolutionary’s efforts directed at the right common ground.

🙃 Revolutionaries themselves are often surprised that others don’t share all of their zeal. So my favourite tip for them is to learn the influencing, alliance- and consensus-building skills that will attract all their stakeholders to the cause.

Viva la revolución!

Here’s the link to The Guardian article referenced above:


Beyond the Monster Myth: Unraveling the Mystery of Difficult Leaders

The more people I spoke to about this leader, the more worried I got:

🔴 “Extremely difficult, scary and obstructive!”

🔴 “The department is haemorrhaging staff and managers.”

🔴 “Every time we try to change something, he blocks it!”

🔴 “You are literally our last attempt before we look at dismissal.”

By the time our first coaching session came around I was expecting to meet something of a monster.

But what I found was very different.

It seemed to me that here was a baffled and bewildered person. Someone in a demanding role, in challenging and shifting circumstances, trying their best to get good outcomes for their department’s clients. In the only way that they knew how.

As well as a slight concern that I was being played by this person, I left with lots of questions. How could there possibly be such a massive gap between what I thought – and the hugely negative experiences that other people were having? In the end, we coached together for six months and created some very positive change.

I got so curious about what was going on to create this kind of situation to start with that I ended up writing my first full-length book about it – The Nine Types of Difficult People.

If you’ve ever wondered how it could easier to help a difficult person themselves, or how the people around them can deal with what’s going on as quickly and effectively as possible, please check out the links below to discover more about the book and look around this website for other resources.

Grab yourself a copy at any good bookshop or online using these links:


WH Smiths:


Crumbs! I’ve only gone and had a book published …

Even though it’s been a massive part of my work for years now, deciding to write a book about how to deal with *difficult people* wasn’t easy.

My take is that almost everybody we find difficult is someone trying to do their best, in a situation they find very challenging, in what is often the only way they know how. So if you want to make a difference in that situation it has to involve a lot of soft compassion 𝒂𝒏𝒅 hard constructive challenge.

And that’s why I was so grateful to win the support of my agent Kizzy Thomson, editor Eloise Cook and the rest of the fantastic team at Pearson, who all really got what the book was about and the approach it needed to take.

Thank you to supporters, pre-publication reviewers and everybody who helped me over the last three years of putting this together. Individual thanks and copies are heading out as soon as.

The presses are rolling and my hope now is that a copy of my book drops into the hands of someone who needs it just at the right time.

Grab yourself a copy at any good bookshop or online using these links:



WH Smiths:


The Golden Rule for Great Working Relationships

This week, I was due to write a smart article about how to avoid workplace conflict.

But the more I thought about, the more I realised that the first and most important step to having great working relationships is actually very straightforward.

So I drew this instead.

It’s what I often find myself saying (or wishing I had said) to clients who have got themselves into a hole at work and are still digging.

It’s what I often need to tell myself when I’m about to get defensive or annoyed by someone, or to do something thoughtless.

We all know this. it’s isn’t complicated and sometimes it really is this simple!

Better Team Communications

This is one of my favourite models to use if your team isn’t communicating that well

[Click the image above and then right-click to save or download a full-size copy]

You’ll know when you have poor team communication, because there are:

  • Disagreements and conflicts all over the place
  • Misunderstandings repeating time and again
  • Rising stress levels
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lower quality than usual.

Barnlund’s model, which dates back to the ’70s, is a great way to break down a team communication problem and start practising some better ways of understanding each other.

As you can see from the diagram, there are four stages:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Continuous Feedback
  3. Shared Meaning; and
  4. (checking for) Noise and Context.

Research shows that the benefits are:

  • A more interactive understanding, rather then a passive reliance on the communicator
  • An intention to share the meaning rather than impose it.

As always, the meaning of your message is in what is understood by someone, rather than in what you actually meant to say!

Please add your own tips for great team communications on Twitter (X!). Or say something about your own experience - e.g. when does team communication really shine, and when does it go wrong? Click To Tweet

❖ And please share this post with your network ❖

What a Positive Workplace Culture Should Actually Be About

Positive culture isn’t about table football or pizza. It’s fixing what’s broken, owning mistakes, celebrating success, and offering help.

Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

Equip yourself to manage difficult conversations at work effectively and compassionately with this comprehensive step-by-step guide

Laying the Groundwork

Managing challenging conversations at work is a fundamental part of being a successful leader.

Why? Because it’s necessary for setting and maintaining behavioural standards, which in turn contribute to the happiness and effectiveness of your team.

The Imperative of Managing Difficult Conversations

Ignoring or tolerating unacceptable behaviours isn’t an option, as it inadvertently lowers the bar and breeds a culture of tolerance towards such behaviour.

However, let’s face it – conversations like these are never easy, especially for those of us who are sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

But it’s important to understand that the lack of setting boundaries and calling out unacceptable behaviours often comes with a cost.

Making a Practical Difference

Here’s the good news – this guide aims to equip you with the framework needed to manage difficult conversations effectively and compassionately.

It will help you to deal with these issues in a manner that both respects your team members and protects the standards and values you wish to uphold in your workspace.

Here are the steps to take …

1. Preparation

Good preparation is the cornerstone of effective conversation

You need to come to the conversation well-prepared – gather your facts, identify your desired outcomes, and anticipate potential responses or issues. This level of preparation helps you address the situation confidently and objectively.

  • Example: If you’re discussing frequent lateness, prepare by documenting specific instances and how they have affected the team or project.

2. Location

The setting of your conversation can significantly impact its outcome

Choose a quiet, private space that is free from distractions. The right location can foster a conducive environment for a challenging conversation, making the other person more comfortable and receptive.

  • For example, a private meeting room is often more suitable than a bustling coffee shop for these discussions.

3. Role-Model Behaviours

Embody the professional standards you expect from others

Exhibit the behaviours you want to see in your team members, such as professionalism, composure, and positivity. Your attitude sets the tone for the conversation.

  • Example: Approaching the conversation calmly and professionally, regardless of the issue at hand, will encourage the same level of respect from your colleague.

4. Use Specific Examples

Clear, specific examples are crucial in addressing problem behaviours or poor performance

Avoid generalisations like, “You always do X.” Instead, provide concrete instances of the problematic behaviour. This approach enables the person to understand the exact issue.

  • Example: Instead of saying, “You’re always late,” say, “You arrived late for the team meetings on these specific dates, which caused us to delay our project discussions.”

5. Positive Illustrations

Offer a vision of improved behaviour or performance

After addressing the issue, provide examples of what improved behaviour looks like. This step helps to steer the conversation towards a more positive and constructive tone.

  • Example: You could say, ”In future, we would appreciate it if you arrived five minutes before our scheduled meetings to ensure we start on time.”

6. Agree a Plan

Set a clear and agreed-upon action plan and consequences

Create a joint action plan that specifies what needs to change, when, and how you will follow up. Explain what will happen if things don’t change. This establishes clear expectations and a mutual understanding.

  • Example: You might agree that the person will make an effort to arrive early for meetings, and you will check-in after a month to assess progress. Explain the consequences if this doesn’t happen.

7. Offer Support

Identify the support they might need from you

Ask what help they might need from you to implement these changes. Commit to providing the necessary support, demonstrating your investment in their improvement.

  • Example: If your team member is struggling with workloadmanagement, you might offer to help them prioritise tasks.

8. Going Deeper

Let’s dig a bit deeper. Consider your personal factors in handling difficult conversations. Who are your allies in this? What additional tools or resources might be helpful for you? Reflect on why it’s important for you to have this conversation.

Understanding the personal implications of these discussions can increase your resolve to address the issues and strengthen your ability to manage them effectively.

The Power of Effective Conversations

Tackling difficult conversations is a necessary challenge that every professional will face. The framework provided in this guide is designed to help you navigate these conversations with confidence, respect, and clarity.

Remember, your ability to manage challenging discussions effectively is not just about resolving issues— it’s about promoting a positive, respectful, and high-standard culture within your workspace.

Next Steps

Do you have a difficult conversation on the horizon? Don’t face it alone. Get in touch to discuss how you can prepare for and manage the conversation effectively, ensuring a positive outcome for both you and your team.

What's been your experience of managing difficult conversations at work? Please share your views and learning here: Click To Tweet

Building Strong Relationships in Remote Teams

Embrace the remote work revolution! Dive into my guide to building strong relationships within your remote team

However much some people would like it to not be the case we are now in the wake of the remote work revolution – it’s happened.

And with it, building strong relationships within teams has become a real concern for some leaders. The importance of getting these relationships right, in terms of people’s personal fulfilment and the wider organisational success can’t be overstated. They have a big impact.

The Silver Lining of Remote Work

Remote work comes with a clear set of advantages. The flexibility, reduced commute time, and improved work-life balance are just a few of the logistical benefits. But beyond that, it also offers unique opportunities for building relationships.

Navigating the Challenges

However, it’s not without its challenges. Lack of face-to-face interaction, communication barriers, and feelings of isolation can make relationship-building difficult.

Strengthening Bonds over Distance

Interestingly, remote work can enhance certain aspects of relationship-building. Increased autonomy, diverse communication channels, and opportunities for quiet reflection can all contribute to stronger bonds.

Harnessing the Power of Collaborative Tools

Remote work also encourages the use of collaborative tools. These tools not only aid in task coordination but also offer other advantages like real-time collaboration and document sharing.

Translating Face-to-Face Experiences

Drawing on face-to-face experiences can be a useful thing to remember to do in a remote setting. Even if ‘remote’ is now your default, we do all have experience of being face to face and we can draw on what makes that work well – and what doesn’t – and apply at least some of those lessons to our remote working. Regular communication and respecting personal boundaries are just a couple of ways we could incorporate those experiences. Maybe there’s other lessons for you too?

Building Relationships: A Practical Approach

Here are some practical tips for building strong relationships:

  • Open and clear communication: Over-communicate rather than leave room for misunderstandings. Set expectations, provide feedback, and address issues promptly.
  • Recognition of individual contributions: Boost morale and foster a sense of belonging by recognising and appreciating individual contributions. A shout-out in a team meeting or a personal thank you note can go a long way.
  • Fostering a supportive culture: Encourage team members to share their ideas and concerns. Address them appropriately to create a comfortable and motivating environment.
  • Leaders giving attention to people: Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and provide necessary support. Regular one-on-one check-ins can be a great way to achieve this.

Regarding team-building activities, remember they may not be for everyone. Alternatives such as one-on-one check-ins or team discussions can be just as effective.

Leaders: The Cornerstone of Strong Relationships

Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering strong relationships. Embodying the ethos of “Leaders eat last”, they can create an environment where everyone feels valued and connected.

The Journey Ahead

Building strong relationships in remote teams is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a journey that requires patience, effort, and a willingness to adapt. But the rewards – increasing both personal fulfilment and organisational success – are well worth it.

So, if you’re ready to embrace the remote work revolution and build stronger relationships within your team, what the next step on that journey for you?

Tweet me @NickRobCoach to share your thoughts and experiences.

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Unlocking the Secrets of High-Performing Teams: The Impact of Trust on Employee Performance – A Research Summary

Discover trust’s power to fuel exceptional performance and ignite your team’s success!

It’s easy to argue that trust is a fundamental component of any successful organisation. But does it really foster a positive work environment, enhance collaboration, and ultimately, improve employee performance? This post summarises the main findings from four sets of useful research studies, looking at evidence of the impact trust has on people’s performance at work.

Trust and Team Performance

The paper “Trust and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis of Main Effects, Contingencies, and Qualifiers” provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between trust and team performance. The study finds that trust does positively influence team performance. However, this effect can be moderated by factors such as task interdependence and cultural context. In essence, when team members do trust each other, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, leading to improved team performance.

The Role of Trust in Organisational Settings

In the paper “The Role of Trust in Organisational Settings: An Integrative Model”, the authors propose that trust plays a critical role in several organisational processes. For example, trust impacts leadership dynamics, team interactions, and the success of organisational change initiatives. They find that a trusting environment allows people to take calculated risks, innovate, and engage more deeply with their work. All of which can enhance overall performance.

Trust in Leadership

The study “Trust in Leadership: Meta-Analytic Findings and Implications for Research and Practice” presents a meta-analysis of research on trust in leadership. The findings suggest that trust in leadership is positively associated with job performance, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment. Leaders who earn trust can foster a work environment where people feel valued, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Trust, Risk-Taking, and Job Performance

The paper “Trust, Trustworthiness, and Trust Propensity: A Meta-Analytic Test of Their Unique Relationships with Risk Taking and Job Performance” explores the relationships between trust, risk-taking, and job performance. The study finds that trust and trustworthiness are positively associated with job performance. Interestingly, they also find that our natural inclination to trust others is not significantly related to job performance. Suggesting that it’s not just our propensity to trust, but the actual presence of trustworthiness in the workplace that influences performance.


In conclusion, trust does play a vital role in enhancing people’s performance at work. Whether it’s trust among team members, trust in leadership, or the general presence of trust in an organisation, there is evidence that trust significantly impacts job performance.

Leaders and organisations should work on fostering open communication, empowering their teams, and cultivating an environment of trust. Then they can drive remarkable performance. Take the first step to more engaged and satisfied people – and start reaping the benefits!