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Obama and Kim Jong Il - Dealing With Outliers As a New Manager...

Interesting past couple of weeks for President Obama, and not without similar issues to any new manager on the scene.

Case in point - Obama's in Europe, and while he's attempting to build relationships and show he'sKim-Jong-Il-R different than George W. Bush, crazy Kim Jong II of North Korea has to go off and launch a test missile that has to be in violation of a couple hundred U.N. resolutions.

Translation from the workplace - new manager, reported to be calm and understanding, on the scene.  Fringe player with history of wild bull rushes sees game changing, maybe feels like he's not getting the attention/respect he deserves, and thus sends a message that in order to be successful, the new leader will need to deal with him - perhaps sooner rather than later.

More on the scene from Kathleen Parker at the Houston Chronicle:

"He says we should show leadership by listening. That we should work in partnership with others. That we should show humility. This is, of course, pure porn for women. But unfortunately, women don’t rule the world. Men still do. And we have to worry whether Obama will be viewed as weak and the U.S., therefore, vulnerable.

And because the world is thus, we are also necessarily concerned whether Obama will respond aggressively enough when appropriate. This is because Americans still don’t really know Obama yet. At each turn since taking office, he reveals new aspects of himself.

We now know that he is without qualm when he finds it necessary to fire corporate chiefs. But will he be as bold when rogue nations strap on their Speedos and display their missilery, as North Korea just did?

If life were a playground, one would have to infer that Kim Jong Il needs some attention. What he really wants is respect, according to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who met Kim in 2000. What he got from Obama was what the Chihuahua gets when the Great Dane shows up. Obama played it cool, in other words. He condemned Pyongyang for threatening stability and reiterated his commitment to reduce nuclear weaponry in the world — but was noncommittal about possible consequences.

For many, he was too cool by half. A Rasmussen poll reported that 57 percent of Americans want military action against North Korea. (Another war so soon?) John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the president’s approach constituted “hand-wringing,” which is a polite way of saying Obama is “girly.” But was Obama really too cool? Or are we not listening?"

Building off that, here are some choices for the new leader when faced with lower stakes in the corporate arena:

1.  Ignore the pest, at risk of being viewed as negligent by all onlookers.

2.  Take hard action against the fringe player, possibly cause sympathy for outlier across a portion of the workforce, but leave no doubt who's in charge.  If previous manager replaced was a hard charger, perhaps cause a "here we go again" vibe towards the new manager.

3.  Express tolerance and patience for the outlier, and attempt to box the outlier in with a combination of pressure from other parties and a reliance on dialog and process.

Let's say you're in the workplace as a new manager, and like Obama, an outlier makes a charge to see "what you're made of".  Of the three choices above, only #1 seems to be easily eliminated.  Doing nothing and ignoring the problem will likely irritate all involved, especially if the behavior continues.  That's why they call it leadership, right?

As for the remaining two options - where do you go?  What do you do?  Do you charge ahead and approach the issue head-on, showing strength?  Or do you work back channels and try and reel the outlier in?

Fascinating stuff.  What would you do?  Leadership 101, but when dealing with nukes and life, not sure there's a right answer to this Leadership question.  I'm pretty sure there is more than one wrong answer.


Hayli @ Transition Concierge

#3 - Friends close, enemies closer.

Creative Chaos Consultant

I agree with Hayli. Kim Jong Il isn't a lowly subordinate that has nothing better to do but complain all the time. He's the department head that's known for firing people at the drop of a dime and keeping a blacklist of those he can't but wishes he could.

Low key and consistent pressure from important stakeholders should make it clear that his/her behavior will lead them out the door. Then stick with it until they improve or get themselves fired.

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