Mastering the Challenge of the Scary Specialist

The scariest person I ever worked for was a former UK table-tennis champion, then my regional GM.

She had a habit of giving you the hair-drier treatment at the same time as eating a crusty cheese roll. And I was struggling with a new appointment to an under-performing division.

We both knew what needed to be done. But the problem for me was how far and how fast that could happen. Not far or fast enough I realised, in between dodging the crumbs!

Nowadays I really like working with scary specialists like her.
🚀 Why NOT focus on being competent and driven and delivering the best that you can.

🛑 But what I also know now that I didn’t know back then, is that the hair-dryer approach isn’t always the best way of GETTING to that high-delivery place.

And there can also be a lot of collateral damage around a scary specialist. Good people won’t tolerate feeling threatened, belittled or locked-out for long – and will leave. Leading to a spiral of declining performance.

❓Who is or was the scariest person that you ever worked with?

❓And what should you do if you’ve got a scary specialist in your organisation?

Collateral damage is happening and performance isn’t improving. You might be tiptoeing around their threats while being told, “Go away; I’ll sort it!”

Focus on these three points:

  1. Sometimes, leaders of a scary specialist might find that their skills and competences are so essential that you need to ensure they only ever have the best people and the slickest of support functions around them.
  2. But more often, leaders will need to also become a little scarier themselves in this situation. To demand that this person develop new ways of managing – or else.
  3. Use their desire for competence to help. Demand that they develop skills which can also take their people from zero to 100. Not just manage well with an already high-functioning team.

If you’re working alongside or below a scary specialist, it can be an interesting experience! In my next article, I’ll look at issues around defending boundaries, raising your own game, and not becoming isolated in the process.

📚 For more insights into dealing with a scary specialist, please check out my book, The 9 Types of Difficult People. See the links below or in the sidebar.

And in the meantime – keep dodging those crumbs!