Leading Difficult People – Critical Carl


Leading difficult people: Critical Carl
By John C Maxwell

There’s room in any organization for every type of person. From the big-picture person to the detail-conscious, all can make a valid contribution. But sometimes a team member’s strength can be their weakness. Attention to detail can become fixation on the negative. And the voice of reason turns into the voice of discouragement.

This is the problem we have with Critical Carl. He’s probably the most thorough and conscientious team member. He’s a great planner. But he seems to only see the negative. And he voices his criticisms to anyone who will listen.

We’ve been spending the past few weeks talking about leading difficult people. You can click the names to read about Fearful Fred, Slumped Susan, Excited Eddie, and Disorganized Debbie. Now let’s discuss how to understand, listen to, and lead Critical Carl.

Understanding Critical Carl:

Behavior: Often negative
Motivated by: Someone to listen to him
Strength: Detail-consciousness
Weakness: No filter
Listening to Critical Carl:
Privately sit down and discuss Carl’s concerns.

Discuss the way he’s chosen to voice them.

Point out that he tends to focus on the negative.

Find out if he wants to change.

Share when, how, and with whom it’s appropriate to point out his concerns.

Leading Critical Carl:

Ask the people negatively affected to meet with you and Carl.

Ask for their side of the story.

Ask Carl for an explanation.

Share with them that Carl has a problem with criticism.

Share with them the process you’ve asked him to follow.

Growth Plan:

Read Be a People Person together

What impact does Critical Carl have in your organization? His negative comments have the potential to discourage fellow team members and halt all forward momentum. By accepting at least some of his concerns as valid, and teaching him how he can – and can’t – share them, you might channel his attention to detail in a way that builds the team and contributes to every project.


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