Checkmate – why your brightest colleagues try to keep you in the dark

In the chess game of work there’s a player who is often several moves ahead.

It’s the Dark Strategist 🤯

Featured in my book, The 9 Types of Difficult People, the Dark Strategist is someone who will treat others like chess pieces, to be moved around to deliver an ambitious grand plan.

It’s often just too slow, too tedious and too outside their comfort zone to explain, coach and collaborate with you instead.

But even though they’re smarter than average their approach can be flawed, with important details overlooked. And they can sometimes let a perfect concept be the enemy of a good execution.

However positive their intention, whether it’s steering the company through a crisis or grabbing an opportunity no-one else has spotted, they can leave people feeling manipulated and undervalued. So that, in the end, nothing actually gets properly done.♟️

💡 Here are some of the main tips from my book about how to throw some light on your dealings with a Dark Strategist and quickly improve working relations, whether you’re their leader, a colleague, or a team member. Or just someone who wants to help them stop being quite so difficult!

🌏 As their leader, if you can speak their language – big-picture, strategic-thinking – that’s sometimes enough to coax them out of the dark and towards a rounder approach. Treating people as people and managing concrete tasks as well as abstract strategy.

🤝 As a colleague or a team member of a Dark Strategist, you’ll also need to learn how to co-strategise, connecting your own knowledge and goals to the wider vision. This will keep them connected long enough for you to join in the big chess game too.

♟️ If you don’t do this, you’re likely to get treated as a chess piece yourself. Call this out, and don’t tolerate they’re treating you like an idiot, just because you don’t also start from a big-picture assessment of things. Collaboration is the key to a successful workplace, and doing that well depends on a good variety of skills and approaches.

In the next of these articles I’ll be taking a look at a different type of difficult person at work. Someone whose positive qualities and strong principles can themselves be the cause of problems.

And to see all of the types I’ve covered so far, or to grab a copy of my book, check out the tags below and/or the links to in the sidebar.

Mission, Vision and Strategy Explained on One Page

Everybody is getting Mission, Vision and Strategy mixed-up and wrong – so here’s a handy one-page guide.

I don’t do much strategy work these days, in favour of my one-to-one and team work. But, I do get a little fed-up with all the remedial team and leadership coaching I need to do which is partly driven by organisations getting some of their structural factors wrong.

In particular, nobody seems to understand how Mission, Vision and Strategy should play nicely together, cascading from the top down. Other stuff that really bugs me includes:

  1. Why do organisations work on their values without having a good idea what their purpose is first? No wonder their people are confused about what their priorities are and how they should be behaving!
  2. And why don’t businesses get their long-term mission straight, before thinking about the mid-term or immediate future?
  3. Why does nobody seem to have a compelling vision now, instead of “Oh, let’s just carry on as before but maybe do a bit more of it.“?
  4. Why is everybody so terrified of doing proper competitive analysis that their strategy is really just a list of stuff they were going to do anyway, instead of a way to win in their marketplace?

Anyway, rather than just rant, I thought if I put it all on a handy one-page guide, that might actually be useful. Click the image above and then alt-click it to save as or download your copy.

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. Tell me I’m wrong, and that your organisation has a proper, cascading Mission, Vision and Strategy covering all the points I’ve listed.

Team Alignment

Six surprisingly simple things to check if your team isn’t all pulling together