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     One of the biggest challenges that many managers face is not about how to motivate middle or low performers.  Instead, the biggest challenge (and sometimes the biggest time-waster too) about how they can manage and motivate highly talented people who have bad attitude


    The reason is simple.  If you have poor performers, you can fire them.  However, if you have someone who is contributing positively to your bottom-line, but does even not show basic respect to their colleagues, it is a lot harder to tackle the issue.  Some managers even don't want to address the issue for the fear that they might drive these "talented terrors" away.


     Hence, this month's topics:

  1. How to Motivate Highly Talented People with Bad Attitude; and

  2. Don’t Ask Survey Questions You Can’t Fix


     This issue's main article is on  "How to Motivate Highly Talented People with Bad Attitude?", and we discuss ways how to deal with it, change it and motivate the perpetuator.


    In brief:

  • Why you need to address bad attitude and behaviour even for great contributors before things get out of hand;

  • How you can be firm to address attitude and behavioural issues without blowing your temper;

  • How you can create winning corporate cultures by influencing the attitudes of the people in your team.  Read on... ...  


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How to Motivate Highly Talented People with Bad Attitude

by c.j. Ng


     Mark is one of the company's top contributors as far as work performance is concerned.  He contributed a substantial amount of sales results, and is knowledgeable about the technical details of the products he sell. 


     Unfortunately, He has a bad attitude and does not get along well with with his colleagues.  He often arrives late and leaves early in meetings, and often made insulting remarks to his colleagues, including his manager.  He is often unreachable during office hours, and seldom return calls or reply his e-mails.  On the other hand, he demands that colleagues from his own department as well as from other departments to provide full, attentive support.


     Mark's manager, Jason, tolerated Mark's attitude and behaviour as much as possible.  In fact, Jason has been reminded by senior managers that Mark is an asset to the company, and Jason should do whatever it takes to retain Mark in the company.  However, there has been increasing complaints about Mark from within Jason's department and from others as well, with a few other team members threatening to leave.  Jason also feels that his authority being compromised as Mark seems not to respect him as a manager at all.


     Eventually, Jason decides to talk to Mark, taking great care so as not to provoke Mark.


     "Hi Mark, your performance has been fantastic," says Jason as he tries to make the opening in a polite way.


     "I know.  Now what do you want?" replied Mark in a very blunt way.


     "There has been some complaints about you from some colleagues lately."  Jason followed.


     "Who has a problem with me? And so what if some losers have a problem with me?" Mark became a little agitated.


     "Well, I was thinking if you could change your behaviour then perhaps you will have better chances of getting a promotion."  Jason tried to assure and appease Mark.


     "What promotion?  When?  What do I need to do if I were to get that promotion?"  Mark pressed for answers.


     "'m just saying if there is a promotion in the near future.  What I'm saying is if you could be considerate of your colleagues' feelings,"  Jason said, trying to find a way out of a difficult situation.


     "I'm not interested in others' feelings and I don't have time for this.  I have more important work to do." Mark cut off as he left the meeting.


Why Attitude Matters

     While individual performance and contributions is important, most managers tend to view bad attitude as a trade-off for great talent, and is something that can be tolerated.  However, studies from Leadership IQ shows that:
     As you can see from the above results, sometimes it is the ordinary employees that need motivation in addition to the one with bad attitude.  If attitude is so important then, so why are so few managers willing to tackle the issue head on?  Well, it seems like many managers face the following dilemma:
  • People with bad attitude could have good output and contribution (sales, productivity, etc.)
  • While output and contribution is highly visible to management, attitude and other "interpersonal" issues are not;
  • As a result, talented people with bad attitude might actually be "protected" by management and their bad attitude becomes persistent or even worsen

Dealing with Bad Attitude Effectively


     Due to the good outputs and contributions of the bad attitude employee, some managers may actually turn a blind eye to the bad attitude and behaviour.  Some may even try to appease them so as to avoid provoking them.


     The thing is, to if small transgressions of bad attitude and behaviours are not addressed immediately, it will be harder to address those issues when they become bigger and get out of hand.  Hence, managers should be vigilant and nip the attitude problem in the bud when it will be easier to addressed and changed.

     Here's a framework of how you can deal with bad attitude effectively in 4 simple steps:
  1. Establish a Candid Context

  2. Describe the Timely, Objective & Specific issue

  3. Candidly eliminate the status quo

  4. Calmly Offer a Choice


     Here's how it works in a real example:

  1. Establish a Candid Context

    • I’ve called you in because there’s a problem with your recent performance

  2. Describe the Timely, Objective & Specific issue

    • Last week in Tuesday’s meeting you made three rude and personal insults during our brainstorming session

  3. Candidly eliminate the status quo

    • That is not acceptable behavior in that setting, and it will not be allowed to continue

  4. Calmly Offer a Choice

    • Now I can’t force you to change.  But what I will say is that you have a choice.  You can choose to change or not to change your behaviour.

    • If you change, you will be much more effective and I think you’ll see your colleagues respond more positively.  If you decide to change I can work with you to outline a very specific action plan that will lead to .

    • If you choose not to change, then we’ll activate the formal disciplinary process which, if there are no significant changes in your behaviour, could ultimately result in termination. (Insert your own HR policies here)

    • I believe you are capable of changing this behaviour.  But only you can choose the path that’s right for you.  Just be clear that there are only two options here.  Because maintaining your present course is not an option.

    • You can give me your decision right now or you can take 24 hours to make a decision.


     While most talented people with bad attitudes will realise you are serious, and also that they might have gotten too far, and will be co-operative.  They are, after all, very smart people.  However, a small minority might have different reactions such as making excuses, becoming really angry or even resort to dramatic reaction such as crying.  Whatever is the negative reaction, all you to do is to repeat the above 4 steps over and over again.


Are You Being Too Tough or Tough Enough


      Not all bad attitudes and behaviours will warrant a disciplinary action.  Some bad attitudes are less severe and have less negative impact on others, such as surfing the Internet for entertainment news during office hours, or making nagging complaints about very small matters etc.


     If you deem the bad attitude and behaviour as less severe and does not warrant disciplinary action, you still may want to provide a firm but gentle reminders of their bad attitude by just going through Steps 1 to 3 above.  A general way to distinguish between good and bad behaviour is to think for yourself if the person is a:

  • Problem-solver; or a

  • Problem-bringer


     Problem-solvers are NOT people with all the solutions and could solve all problems.  Rather, they have the positive attitude to at least try to solve the problems they face, or make suggestions on how those problems could be solved.  Problem-bringers, on the other had, are those who are more negative and passive where they just complain about problems without suggesting ways how they could be solved.


     Hence, effective managers and leaders will always be on the look-out to change negative attitudes and behaviours into positive ones, so as to gradually build winning corporate cultures over time.


     Need help in motivating talented people with bad attitude?  Simply e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha.  All information shall be kept in confidence.


Power Breakfast Hour: 13 Dec 2012

How to Motivate Highly Talented People with Bad Attitude

  • How bad attitudes and behaviours from great contributors will have severe negative impact on your team;
  • The 4 simple steps that you can use to address and motivate talented people with bad attitudes;
  • How you can build winning corporate cultures by changing negative attitudes and behaviours of your team members into positive ones.

VENUE:  Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 •  番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Thursday, 13 Dec 2012

TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.



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Tips for Managers:

Don’t Ask Survey Questions You Can’t Fix


By Mark Murphy

Founder and CEO, Leadership IQ

Edited by c.j. Ng,

Master Trainer, Asia, Leadership IQ


To actually get results, an engagement survey process has to be much more than just a bunch of questions you send to employees. Remember: Every survey question you ask implies a promise that you’re going to do something with the answer. Because if you ask employees a survey question, and you don’t do anything to address their answer, it’s just going to make your people angry, and that hurts rather than helps engagement.

Think of it this way: Imagine you just got dressed up to go out with your spouse, and you ask “Does this outfit look OK?” Now imagine your spouse says something like “Meh, it’s alright” or even “Is that really what you’re going to wear?” Of course responses like these irritate you, and so you respond “Well, to heck with you, I’m wearing it!” And then your spouse angrily (and rightly) says “Well, if you didn’t want my opinion, why’d you bother to ask?” That, in a nutshell, is why your engagement survey process has to be a lot more than just asking a bunch of questions.


Surveys commonly ask questions about whether employees have friends at work and whether they trust their boss. Let’s say you get low scores on those questions. Now you need to do something about it. Let’s start with the trust issue. Do you know specifically what causes the typical employee to trust the boss? How about what causes your unique employees to trust the boss? What steps have you taken to validate these issues?

Solutions will Depend on Your Unique Culture


We conducted one of the largest studies ever on the topic of what makes employees trust their boss. And we discovered that the extent to which leaders respond constructively to employees who bring them work-related problems is the biggest driver of employee trust. This factor ranked significantly higher than whether or not the employees saw the boss as honest and truthful. And yet, there are a lot of organizations teaching managers to engender greater trust by being more honest, while other organizations are teaching managers to be more transparent in order to gain employee trust. What is the guaranteed solution to the problem? You won’t find an answer by asking a question like “Do you trust your boss?”


Similarly, low scores on a question that asks if employees have a good friend at work don’t teach you exactly what steps you need to take to fix the issue. Social networking might improve friendships, but so might more teamwork or less teamwork, or spending more time together or less time together, etc. The solution might depend on your unique culture. Bottom line, if you really want to know what’s going to work for your folks, you’ve got to ask about those solutions specifically.


It should also be noted that factors like friendships and trust are means to an end; they are not the end themselves. The “end” is to get employees to willingly and passionately give 100% and to recruit people to come to the company and do the same. Maybe having friends at work is causally related to that, maybe it’s not. Maybe trust is causally related to that, maybe it’s not. Maybe open communication, doing interesting work, having good life balance, being autonomous or being in great teams are all related, but maybe they’re not. The trick is to figure out what’s truly related and ask about it in a way that gives you information about the specific actions you need to take. So if you discover an area you need to fix, you’ll immediately know what needs to be done.


For every survey question, ask yourself “Do I know exactly what actions will fix this issue?”


Our surveys never ask employees if they trust their boss. However, we will ask if the boss responds constructively when presented with work-related problems. We’ll also never ask employees if they have a good friend at work. However, we will ask if the employee can successfully deliver constructive feedback to their co-workers.


To judge how effective your current employee survey really is, take a good look at every question on the survey, and ask yourself, “Do I know exactly what actions will fix this issue?” It’s not good enough to be able to guess what might work; you have to know with complete certainty what you will do. If you don’t have a definitive answer, the survey question has no value and needs to be dropped.

If you would like to get the eLearning material on "Why 5-Point Scales Don’t Work (and other Deadly Sins of Employee Engagement Surveys)" and 39 other eLearning topics by Leadership IQ, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001

About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia.  LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


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Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Freudenberg etc.


Through collaboration with consultancies such as Forum Corporation, MTI, de Bono China, ProWay etc., the consultants in Directions Management Consulting have served clients such as PwC, Air Products, Evonik, Wacker, Epson amongst others.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


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