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Recovering Skillful Politician

By Patrick Lencioni - November 2017


Q: Help. I’m recovering ‘skillful politician,’ but I seem to relapse at times. I get confused because others experience me as rigid and inflexible and then another group of people experience me as flexible and great to work with. I don’t understand! If everyone experienced me the same that would make some sense, but it seems to vary from person to person and group to group. Is it something with me or, perhaps, something with others or a particular environment that is the changing factor?

I have the heart to help others, and my personality type can’t help but recognize opportunities for growth and make improvements to serve people better but often I get labeled as ‘negative’ or ‘a complainer’ even though my heart is to help make things better as I share issues I notice and present creative solutions.

Everyone else seems fine with mediocrity but not me, so I feel like the odd man out. What can I change and do differently?

A: For readers not familiar with this concept, a skillful politician is a person who has two of the three virtues from the model in my book The Ideal Team Player. A skillful politician is hungry and smart but lacks humility (learn more).

Okay, let me start by saying that I really appreciate your vulnerability around having struggled with being a skillful politician in the past. That is hard to admit and it’s admirable that you can do that.  I also think that this vulnerability will be the key to taking on the challenge that you currently have.

I would probably advise you to find a great coach to work with you so that you can get to the bottom of this issue about why different people perceive you differently.  That will be key.  It’s hard enough for us to develop ourselves when we are crystal clear about our weaknesses, but when we hear different messages, we need to gain clarity if we want to avoid feeling schizophrenic.

At the risk of sounding like I can diagnose your situation based on your question alone, let me just say that you may need to figure out how to temper your frustration with what you call mediocrity in others, and raise your level of empathy for why those people may be satisfied with lower standards than yours.  Perhaps they do accept mediocrity.  Perhaps they are unclear about what to do.  It might be an environmental issue that is bigger than them.  Whatever the case, trying to understand your teammates and understand why they do what they do will probably go a long way toward interacting with them in a way that makes them see you as a problem-solver and a helper to them, rather than a complainer.  Again, that is just my two cents based on limited understanding of your situation.

Whatever you do though, don’t stop being vulnerable.  Be the first to admit your limitations, and that will make others more open to your feedback about theirs.