Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

How to Work with Someone Like Joe Lieberman

ARCHIVES

At this point, Joe Lieberman is starting to remind me of Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip. Remember the long running bit about how she'd promise to hold the football for Charlie Brown so he could kick it and then she'd snatch it away at the last minute leaving him flat on his back? My guess is that's how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues are feeling about Lieberman right about now. Yay, we have a public option in the health care bill! No, wait, we don't. Lieberman is going to filibuster a bill with a public option. That's OK, we can put in a provision to offer Medicare to those 55 and older. Yeah, that'll work. Uh, no apparently not. Lieberman's against it now even though he was for it three months ago.

Before we go any further, let me say that the point of this post is not to argue the pros and cons of the health care bill. The question I'm interested in today is how do you work with someone like Joe Lieberman who, just when you think you've got everything lined up, throws a wrench in the gears at the last minute and then does it again (and again and again)? It's a pertinent question, I think, because most people have a Joe Lieberman in their workplace. How do you deal with this kind of person?

I've actually had a number of coaching conversations this year about this topic. Before I get to a list of what might work, here are some things that I'm pretty sure don't work. First, threats usually don't work. Why? Because they usually can't or won't be backed up and your local Joe knows that. Second, anger doesn't usually work. Why? Because a lot of the time Joe is just trying to provoke a response to prove he's a player. Anger fills that desire beautifully. Finally, ignoring Joe doesn't work. Why? Because if you ignore Joe, he's going to bide his time and wait until you think you've got it all wrapped up to spring a move that reminds you he's still there.

So, what does seem to work with the Joes of the world? Here's a short list:

1. Remember it's not about you. It's about Joe. To deal with him, you're going to need to get over your pity party about how unfair and unreasonable he is and start thinking like Joe.

2. Assume that you're Joe. As uber coach Tim Gallwey would suggest, as Joe, ask yourself three questions:

  • What do I think?
  • How do I feel?
  • What do I want?

3. Give some extra time to thinking about what Joe wants. Here's a big clue. What he wants is a lot more connected to how he feels than to what he thinks. To deal with Joe, you're going to have to accommodate his emotional needs. Does he feel prideful, wronged, ignored, anxious, vindictive or something else? Whatever it is, his wants and his actions are going to flow from that emotional state. To deal with Joe effectively, you're going to have to get ahead of the curve in making some educated guesses about what he wants.

4. Make Joe feel loved. When you get down to it, that's what most everybody wants. (Even Lucy. Remember her jones for Schroeder?) How do you make someone feel loved in the workplace? (In ways that won't get you sued?) You ask them what they think. You bring them in the tent. You include them early and work to incorporate some of their ideas.

5. Keep your cool. In spite of your best efforts, Joe is still likely to do things that tick you off. When he does, take a deep breath, remember what you're trying to accomplish and resist the urge to go ballistic. That just encourages Joe.

What are your experiences in working with a Joe? What's worked? What mistakes have you made? What's got you stuck?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.