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:


Research Highlight: The Impact of Coaching on Team Performance

Discover how coaching can transform your team! Recent research reveals it significantly boosts performance, productivity, and communication.

Some interesting academic research on the impact of coaching techniques on team performance.

I know I’m a convert, but the findings of this research really do make a strong argument for using coaching techniques to significantly boost a team’s productivity and satisfaction.

Here’s my summary and the link to the actual research study is at the end.

The study, conducted by Aldrin & Utama, revealed that the application of coaching techniques significantly improved team performance.

The team performance score (a composite measure of the quality of work, efficiency of task completion, and level of collaboration and communication within a team) was used to quantify this improvement.

Before the introduction of coaching, the average team performance score was 58.67. After coaching was implemented, the score rose to an impressive 68.53.

This shows the transformative power of coaching in a team setting, leading to:

  • higher quality work
  • improved efficiency, and
  • enhanced collaboration and communication.

Effective communication is a critical component of successful teamwork, and coaching techniques can help break down barriers, create a sense of belonging, and foster a deep empathic understanding among team members.

Coaching, as the study explains, is about building relationships that foster personal and professional growth. It’s a process that encourages individuals to find solutions to their problems through increased self-awareness, with the support of a coach.

In a team setting, coaching can help to:

  • streamline learning
  • improve job satisfaction
  • enhance interpersonal relationships, and
  • develop leadership and management skills.

Moreover, the study found that coaching techniques can enhance respect for others and provide solutions to problems.

However, it’s important to remember that the effectiveness of coaching techniques depends on their practical application in daily work.

I think that the findings of this study are a powerful reminder of the potential that lies within a teams. By implementing coaching techniques, you can unlock this potential, improving team performance and satisfaction, and driving success.

Click here to see the research paper itself.

What’s your experience been? Please use the ‘click to tweet box below, or just click here to tweet me .

How have you used coaching techniques to improve your team's performance and satisfaction at work? Click To Tweet

10 Key Strategies for Growing Effective Teams

Discover the top 10 strategies for building effective teams in my latest article and help grow your team to their full potential

In the world of work, the strength of a team is often the factor that decides your success.

A cohesive, effective team can drive innovation, foster creativity, and above all, deliver results.

But how do you build such a team?

In this article, I set out the top 10 strategies for building effective teams. These strategies, backed by research and expert opinion, provide a solid foundation for leaders looking to cultivate a high-performing team.

Don’t feel you need to do all of these, all at once. But please do reflect on any that you’re not doing or are avoiding. Those are often the ones that have the most potential to grow your own leadership skills and understanding.

  1. Clear Communication
    • Why: Ensure that every team member understands their role, the team’s goals, and how they fit into the bigger picture.
    • How: Regular meetings and open dialogue can foster this understanding. Use clear, concise language and encourage questions to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  2. Shared Vision and Goals
    • Why: A team that shares a common vision and goals is more likely to work effectively together.
    • How: Regularly remind your team of these goals and how their work contributes to achieving them. Use team meetings or newsletters to keep the vision and goals fresh.
  3. Trust and Respect
    • Why: Building a culture of trust and respect can lead to a more collaborative and efficient team.
    • How: This can be achieved through team-building activities (but see below) and open, honest communication. Encourage team members to share their thoughts and ideas, and show appreciation for their contributions.
  4. Diversity
    • Why: A diverse team can bring a wide range of perspectives and ideas, leading to more innovative solutions.
    • How: Encourage diversity in your team not only in terms of demographics but also in skills and experiences. This could involve hiring practices, team assignments, or professional development opportunities.
  5. Regular Feedback and Recognition
    • Why: Providing regular feedback helps team members understand what they are doing well and where they can improve. Recognising and rewarding good work also increases morale and motivation.
    • How: Implement a regular feedback process, such as performance reviews or one-on-one meetings. Recognise and reward good work in team meetings, newsletters, or through a more formal program.
  6. Team Building Activities
    • Why: Regular team building activities can help to build trust, mitigate conflict, encourage communication, and increase collaboration.
    • How: Organise regular team building activities, such as workshops, retreats, or social events. Please be careful to consider the interests and preferences of your team when planning these activities. And decide how to accommodate those people who simply don’t like them or have had poor previous experiences.
  7. Work-Life Balance
    • Why: Encouraging a healthy work-life balance can lead to more productive and satisfied team members.
    • How: This can include flexible working hours, remote work options, and ensuring that workloads are manageable. Encourage team members to take breaks and time off to recharge.
  8. Avoid Perfectionism
    • Why: Perfectionism can lead to burnout and is not conducive to a healthy team environment.
    • How: Encourage a culture of learning and improvement, rather than perfection. Celebrate progress and effort, and view mistakes as opportunities for learning.
  9. Conflict Resolution
    • Why: It’s important to have a process in place for resolving conflicts that arise within the team.
    • How: This could involve open discussions, mediation, or bringing in a third party to help resolve issues. Provide training on conflict resolution skills and create a safe space for team members to express their concerns.
  10. Empowerment
    • Why: Empower team members by giving them the authority and autonomy to make decisions about their work.
    • How: Delegate tasks and responsibilities, and trust your team members to carry them out. Provide the necessary resources and support, and be open to their ideas and suggestions.

Building an effective team is continuous process of commitment, patience, and the right strategies.

By implementing the strategies I’ve set out in this post, you can grow a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, and shared vision. The strength of your team lies in its members, and as a leader, your role is to guide, support, and inspire them.

I’m also interested in hearing from you.  Share your experiences by tweeting me using the button below or by visiting my twitter feed.

What strategies have you found effective in your team-building efforts? Click To Tweet

And if you found this post valuable, please share it with your network. Together, we can all learn and grow.

Closing the Gap: My Opinion on Conquering Imposter Syndrome at Work

Unmasking Imposter Syndrome: my view on how to close the gap between reality and undefined standards – and conquer self-doubt together.

Charting the Course to High Team Performance: Insights from a Groundbreaking Study

⭐︎ Ever wondered what separates the average teams from the star performers? A fascinating new study has shed light on this very question, and the findings are not what you might think! ⭐︎

The research, published in the Organisation Science journal, challenges the conventional wisdom that team performance is like a bell curve, with most teams being average and only a few being very good or very poor. 📈📉

Instead, it reveals that high-performing “star teams” are far more prevalent than we’d typically predict.

So, what’s the secret sauce that propels these teams into the stratosphere?

The authors identify three key factors that contribute to this phenomenon:

► Incremental Differentiation:

This is akin to a runner training for a marathon, gradually increasing their speed and endurance over time. For teams, it means fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Every small step forward, every lesson learned and applied, helps the team improve, leaving others trailing behind.

► Authority Differentiation:

Teams where decision-making is shared evenly tend to perform better. Imagine a ship where not just the captain, but the entire crew knows how to navigate – it’s far more likely to stay on course.

► Temporal Stability:

Teams that keep a consistent line-up over time tend to have better performance. It’s like a well-rehearsed orchestra, where each musician knows their part and how they fit into the whole. Constantly changing the musicians disrupts the harmony and flow.

These findings are exciting because they provide a roadmap for average teams to become star performers. By focusing on small, continuous improvements, sharing decision-making, and maintaining a stable team, any leader can set their team on a path to success.

So, next time you’re looking to boost your team’s performance, remember these three factors:

It's not about being the best right out of the gate, but about improving step by step, sharing the leadership, and keeping the team together. Click To Tweet

That’s how average teams can become shooting stars, lighting up the performance sky!

For more details, you can read the full paper here:

Leadership Development Strategies for Success at Work: A Step-by-Step Guide

Unlock your leadership potential with my step-by-step guide. From self-assessment to continuous learning, discover my keys to your success at work.

Leadership development strategies are crucial for executive success.

They equip leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge to guide their teams effectively, drive organisational growth, and adapt to changing business landscapes.

Without leadership development, executives risk stagnation, decreased team performance, and ultimately, a decline in organisational success.

Here are the key steps to take

Step 1: Self-Assessment

Self-assessment is the foundation of leadership development.

It involves a critical evaluation of one’s strengths and weaknesses. This introspection helps identify areas for improvement.

  • An executive might use tools like 360-degree feedback or personality assessments to gain a comprehensive understanding of their leadership style and areas that need improvement.

Step 2: Setting Leadership Goals

Goal setting is a pivotal step and the GROW model is a good one to use when setting out on the developmental journey.

The GROW model involves setting a Goal, understanding the current Reality, exploring Options, and determining the Will to achieve the goal.

  • An executive aiming to improve their communication skills might set a specific goal to deliver clear and concise team briefings (Goal), acknowledge their current tendency to provide too much information (Reality), explore options like communication workshops or coaching (Options), and commit to practicing concise communication in daily meetings (Will).

Step 3: Seeking Feedback

Feedback is a valuable resource for leadership development.

It provides insights into how others perceive your leadership style and effectiveness. Constructive feedback can guide your development process.

  • An executive might implement a regular feedback system, such as anonymous surveys or open feedback sessions, to gain insights into their team’s perception of their leadership style and identify areas for improvement.

Step 4: Investigating Development Opportunities

Exploring leadership development opportunities supported by your organisation is crucial.

These programs, along with other opportunities like secondments and volunteering, provide practical leadership experience.

  • An executive might participate in a company-sponsored leadership workshop or seek a secondment opportunity in a different department, or even to a supplier or third-sector organisation, to gain a broader perspective and enhance their leadership skills.

Step 5: Raising Awareness of Others

Understanding others is a key aspect of emotional intelligence in leadership.

This involves recognizing others’ motivations and values, which can enhance team dynamics and effectiveness.

  • An executive might conduct regular one-on-one meetings with team members to better understand their motivations, career aspirations, and values, and then tailor their leadership approach to better align with these insights.

Step 6: Implementing Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring play a significant role in leadership development.

These relationships provide personalized guidance and feedback, enhancing your leadership skills.

  • An executive might engage a professional coach to refine their communication skills, and also mentor a junior employee themselves. Which not only provides a fresh perspective but also helps in developing their leadership skills through teaching.

Step 7: Practising Leadership Skills

Practice is essential for honing leadership skills.

New skills and behaviours should be practised in a safe environment to encourage growth and development.

  • An executive might practice their decision-making skills by taking the lead in smaller projects before taking on larger, organisation-wide initiatives.

Step 8: Reflecting on Progress

Self-reflection can be an information-rich part of leadership development.

It involves reviewing your progress, learning from experiences, and making necessary adjustments.

  • After a major project, an executive might conduct a reflective session, analysing the project’s successes, challenges, and their personal performance, to identify lessons learned and plan for future improvements.

Step 9: Continuous Learning

Leadership development is a journey of continuous learning rather than a destination.

Staying updated with the latest leadership trends and theories can provide new insights and strategies.

  • An executive might commit to reading a new leadership book each month, subscribing to relevant industry podcasts, or attending annual leadership seminars to stay abreast of new developments in leadership theory.

The journey of leadership development is a continuous and rewarding process.

Each step you take not only brings you closer to becoming a more effective leader but also contributes to the success of your team and organisation.

The key to executive success lies in continuous learning, adaptation, and the courage to step out of your comfort zone. Embrace this journey with an open mind and a committed heart, and watch as you transform not just yourself, but your entire organisation.

Let me know what your top leadership development tips are? And what do you most want to learn about, as a leader? Click To Tweet

The Impact of Adapting Leadership Styles to Different Situations: A Research Summary

Can changing your leadership style REALLY make you more effective and your followers more fulfilled? A research summary.

I’m a big fan of ‘leadership styles’ as a tool to help people adapt their leadership approach to suit their circumstances.

I ask them, ‘What kind of approach do the task requirements demand of you?”, “How do you need to behave so that the people around you can be effective and fulfilled in their work?”

This usually really helps leaders to focus on doing the right thing in the right way. For me, it’s part of the principle of being flexible and adaptable. If one leadership style isn’t working, either because of circumstances or because of what people actually need from you; then change it. Try something else.

But is there any evidence to suggest that the kind of systematic changing of leadership style that I’m talking about does actually make a difference? In terms of leadership effectiveness and follower satisfaction, for example?

I looked at five pieces of research to see what was indicated.

1. “Leadership Styles and Associated Personality Traits: Support for the Conceptualisation of Transactional and Transformational Leadership”

This research explains the personality traits of managers exercising different leadership styles and provides empirical support for the conceptualization of leadership in terms of transactional and transformational leadership. It suggests that different leadership styles are associated with different personality traits, implying that leaders may need to tap into different aspects of their personality to effectively adapt their leadership style.

This research contributes to answering my question by suggesting that the adaptability of leadership style may be linked to a leader’s ability to harness different aspects of their personality, which could potentially impact leadership effectiveness and follower satisfaction.
Read Full Text

2. “Positive global leadership”

This paper proposes a new positive approach to global leadership and how it addresses three major challenges in the global context of distance, cultural differences, and cross-cultural barriers. It suggests that a positive approach to leadership, which may involve adapting leadership styles to suit different contexts, can help leaders more effectively meet global challenges.

This research contributes to answering my question by suggesting that the adaptability of leadership style, particularly in a global context, can enhance leadership effectiveness.
Read Full Text

3. “Are Effective Leaders Creative?”

This research investigates the widely held belief that creativity is an important component of effective leadership. It suggests that creative leaders are often more effective, implying that creativity may be an important factor in leadership adaptability.

This research contributes to answering my question by suggesting that creativity, which could be seen as an aspect of leadership style adaptability, may enhance leadership effectiveness.
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4. “Motivation and Leadership in Social Work Management: A Review of Theories and Related Studies”

This paper provides an overview of relevant theories of motivation and leadership and how they apply to social work. It suggests that understanding and applying these theories can enhance leadership effectiveness and follower satisfaction.

This research contributes to answering my question by providing a theoretical foundation for understanding how the adaptability of leadership style can impact leadership effectiveness and follower satisfaction.
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5. “Female Leadership in Software Projects: A Preliminary Result on Leadership Style and Project Context Factors”

This research explores the experience of female leaders of software development projects and possible context factorsthat influence leadership effectiveness. It suggests that female leaders may need to adapt their leadership style to suit the specific context of software development projects.

This research contributes to answering my question by providing a specific context in which leadership style adaptability may enhance leadership effectiveness and follower satisfaction.
Read Full Text

Overall, I think the results are a little mixed. The research indicates that there is evidence to suggest that adapting leadership style to suit the circumstances can be effective for leaders and fulfilling for followers. And while the research does not provide a definitive answer, it does suggest that leadership style adaptability can enhance leadership effectiveness and follower satisfaction – in certain contexts.

Therefore, leaders should consider the potential benefits of adapting their leadership style to suit their circumstances.

So, why not give it a try and see for yourself?

Adapt your leadership style and see the difference it can make in your leadership journey.

And if you want some support around HOW to do that – get in touch!

Let me know what your own experience has been. Does changing your leadership approach to suit your circumstances make a difference for you and the people around you? Click To Tweet