Henry Cloud: Three Kinds of People
“Not everyone is the same, and therefore you cannot deal with everyone you lead the same.”
3 categories of people (“Now, I hate classifications that force people into certain categories. But these are true and biblical.” Also: “We all have all three of these areas in our hearts, including the foolish and the evil, but some people make a career out of one of them”):
Correct them and they change. (Assuming you are correct! Not always the case.) And, they thank you. So what do you do when you’re leading a wise person? You talk to them. Someone’s listening. So you coach them, give them feedback, resource them. With the wise person, the challenge is to make sure they are a match for what you need. And you have to give them good feedback in coaching, and you have to keep them challenged. Easy.
May be very bright and gifted. This is why they’ve gotten as far as they have. And they really do produce a lot of times. But here’s the problem. With the wise person, when the light comes, they adjust themselves to the light. With a fool, when the light shows up, they adjust the light. It hurts their eyes. They’re allergic to it. They try to dim it and they try to adjust the truth. The wise man changes himself; the fool tries to change the truth. “This wasn’t a big deal.” “It’s not like that.” Or, they shoot the messenger. Whenever you give feedback to someone, and the first reflective move is defensiveness, let that be a warning sign. They are squinting. They deny that it’s reality, the minimize it, they externalize it, they shoot the messenger. They aren’t happy to hear it, and a lot of times they get angry. You become the problem.
Every time you talk to a person like this, they do not own it. When you get hopeless about that with them, that is one of the best things you can do as a leader. A wise responsible leader initially has hope that the person will start listening. But this person just keeps not listening. You gotta give up here.
Here’s what the Bible says, and all research validates: “With a wise person, talk to them. They will love you for it and listen and get better.” But then the Bible changes its tone. It says “do not correct a fool, lest you incur insults upon yourself. Do not confront a mocker, lest they hate you. Etc.” These verses describe reality like you’ve never seen it before. They say: “Here’s your strategy: Stop talking.” Why? They have stopped listening. Their allergy to reality is now in charge. It’s your job as a leader to take stewardship over this and stop the insanity.
So you have a conversation. “You know, Joe, how we’ve talked about A and A and A and A. I want to talk about a new problem. The problem that talking with you about problems doesn’t help.” And you begin to get out of the weeds, and take it up to the patter. “I don’t know how to give you feedback in a way that changes anything. I’m hopeless. So let me tell you what I do when I’m hopeless. I’ve got to protect our vision. We’re going to do something different. We’re going to have some limits. What I want to know is how I can talk to you in a way that makes a difference.” It may be they are foolish for reasons you can address. Maybe you can give your feedback differently. But then to second question: “What do we do if we have this conversation again, and nothing has changed.” If they don’t listen again, you have to have consequences. They may get moved out of the position. There are extreme consequences, there are minor consequences.
Here is the principle: Fools don’t change when truth comes to them, but when the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of changing. “I’m a recovering fool. All of us are foolish to some degree. Jesus died for fools.” You can redeem their position and role and giftedness.
The leadership challenge here is to limit your exposure, make it clear about the consequences, give them a choice, and follow through. Need to say “I need someone in this position that can hear reality. I hope that’s you. I want you to be in that chair. But that’s what that chair is going to require, and you get to make the choice.”
They want to inflict pain. I’ve seen this, and you have to believe it. There truly are bad people in the world. I’ve seen it in board meetings, I’ve seen it in high levels of leadership. Paul writes: “Reject a divisive person after a second warning. Have nothing to do with them.” Strategy: protection mode.
“God has called you to lead people. Sometimes it’s not about the plan, but about getting the people to work the plan. Take the challenge to not let somebody’s character problem stop the mission God has called you to.”