This may sound like obvious advice, and yet there are many who fail to achieve success at the highest level for this very reason, and we must work with others to achieve goals beyond a certain level.
“No man is an island entire of itself“ – John Donne
In those instances the skills to achieve success must transcend beyond the personal and escalate to the interpersonal level by working with others.
The strength of a team will be determined both by the strongest and weakest parts of the team. The strongest part can lead a team to success, however a weak link can allow the team to be destroyed.
This can be likened to the human body where a weakness in the immune system can cause a person to be struck down with an illness even though the mind or athletic ability of the person may be functioning at an exceptional level.
Therefore the ability to protect yourself against some of the most pernicious types of individual could determine the difference between success and failure.
We will list a few of the types of individual that will put your chances of winning at risk here.
Toxic personality types to watch out for
The excuse maker
“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” – George Washington Carver
I am sure that we have all met the excuse maker type of individual. This is the person who always has a reason why they have failed or not been able to do their job properly.
The reasons vary from a plethora of different perspectives, including ridiculous notions such as ‘astrological stars not being in alignment’ and ‘Jesus not coming through for me’ to ‘I didn’t know that the competition would be playing so hard to win against us’ and so on…
The list is practically endless with the useless and pathetic excuses that they will make. It must be said that there are factors that will occur and be outside of everyone’s control, however the real winner will pick himself or herself back up and say ’what should I have done better?’ or ‘what did I learn from their experience?’ instead of making excuses.
The loser often feels proud of the excuse that he or she has spoken and leans upon it like a crutch that supports a weak frame.
Rarely have I seen a compulsive excuse maker become a person of virtue and as soon as you have discovered them then you should work to get them as far away from your organization as quickly as possible.
“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kobe Bryant
The lazy often have a cunning and deceptive manner about them where they deflect responsibility in order to avoid work. There is something that be applauded if a person is looking to use leverage for their efforts and maximize their productivity, however when that comes at the expense of one’s own team members then they should be found and ejected from your organization.
“A fool thinks himself to be wise.” – William Shakespeare
Fools are very interesting, and some people like to have fools around because it makes them look superior in comparison. The psychologist Robert Cialdini describes this as contrast. In relation to an organization a leader should be interested in the success of the team and not just his or her individual excellence compared to an inferior person or group.
The Roman writer Horace also noted that ‘The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.’ This does not mean that you should entrust the highest amount of responsibility to a fool on the rare occasion that they would provide an exceptional insight or outstanding performance to change the direction of the organization. Situations like those are complete gambles and although are possible should not be taken for granted as something that can be replicated.
Genius is something that creates magic, however the formula for genius is something that is extremely difficult to create, and when you find genius then you should look after them, even though some geniuses can behave foolishly or like spoilt children.
Ultimately anyone who cannot consistently provide your organization with positive contributions towards its success is someone who should not be on your team.
The Pseudo intellectual
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Steven Hawking
The pseudo intellectual is in many ways like the excuse maker and may even have had an education at an ‘eminent learning institution’ such as Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge or Oxford, and yet when it comes down to delivering certain results in relation to the success of the organization, they do not achieve success.
Many of them vaunt their ideas about ‘data’ ‘charts’ ‘graphs’ ‘demographics’ and many other buzzwords of the day that get many of the journalists and ‘gatekeepers of taste’ excited, but they do not deliver the goods at the end of the day.
Strategic thinking certainly has its place, and any organization that does not use strategic thinking in its long-term operations is certainly playing at a distinct disadvantage to their competition. However strategy must be used in order to achieve a specific objective in the real world, and not just information for pomp and ceremony.
Many are taken in by the smooth sweet sounding silky words of the pseudo intellectual and become lulled into a stupor while the culprit hides behind a labyrinth of words, clichés, concepts, ideas and maxims.
Do not be fooled by the pseudo intellectual. You must demand tangible results from everyone who is involved in your organization, and if they cannot deliver then you should show them the door.
“You don’t take the unskilled seriously.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
We all begin our journeys with a minuscule amount of skill in some areas; the important thing is that we must be skilled in the areas for which we are being compensated for.
The jack-of-all-trades is typically a master of none, so it is vital to cultivate a skilled workforce of experts who can deliver excellence in at least one area that is beneficial for the organization.
If you are leading an organization (even an army of one) it is important to know the necessary functions that it will take to meet your objectives in the short-term and long-term.
One way to avoid losers in this area is to always be on the lookout for talented and skilled people, and even if you do not have any specific opportunities for them, then you can keep in contact with them, and create a library of talent so that when you are in a position to compensate or work with them you are ready and have a pre-selected choice of talented individuals to collaborate with.
“All warfare is based on deception” – Sun Tzu
It would take a separate section to fully decipher that Sun Tzu quote, and it is essential to ponder that quote in order to understand the applications in business and in life.
The deceiver is a very useful friend and an extremely dangerous enemy. A person who can lie for you may also lie to you; for that reason you must be aware of their potential to help or hinder you.
If you are skilled in communication and management then you can work with a deceiver to add value to your organization. If you are not skilled then you should be careful that you are not used and manipulated by a deceiver.
An important question to ask is, ‘when are the words of a deceiver to be trusted, and when should they be ignored?’
Although it is impossible to predict the future, as you become more skilled you will be able to garner clues and insights into how deceivers will attempt to manipulate you.
You can read something that we wrote previously in relation to dealing with difficult clients here that will cover some key points to think of – http://anisometric-inc.com/how-to-negotiate-and-win-with-tough-clients/
“The man who always takes and never gives is not a leader. He is a parasite.” – Napoleon Hill
The parasite is an interesting type of individual; he or she survives and thrives from taking from others and using them for personal gain without any meaningful contribution of their own in return.
If you have this type of person in your organization then you should remove them as quickly as you can. However, this is not always as easy as it seems because one of the greatest skills of the parasite is to make the host think that they are essential to have around, and as we see with parasite in the animal world, they will often be able to change the behaviour of the host to make them more hungry, or more thirsty so that the parasite can profit from the host doing the hard work.
This is an extremely complex topic and requires a book in itself because a parasite can have an entire existence by completely manipulating the mind, thoughts and behaviour of the host while the host may be completely unaware of what is happening.
Here we arrive at an interesting point of the topic, and this can be understood as attraction. There is much that can be said about attraction and for our purpose here it can be limited the notion that every person or organization attracts those types of people that harmonise with the dominant thoughts of the organization.
Alternatively stated, a victimized host will attract parasites to take advantage of them, and a strong entity will not tolerate parasites. This is true to a certain point, however as mentioned earlier some hosts are not aware that they are hosting parasites that feed on them.
Parasites can typically be placed into 3 categories
These parasites are those that are hard to notice or detect. Imagine a stealth computer virus that watches your movements and interactions but does not alert you of its presence. Covet parasites operate in the same way. You may work with people who are extremely quiet, polite and jovial, and if something goes wrong then you may not even suspect them of doing anything wrong. These parasites are very difficult to catch and provide the greatest danger.
Sometimes these parasites can be known as ‘Culture Vultures’ and these may operate outside of your organisation but they may impact your organization indirectly through their impact.
Not all parasites are malicious with their intent even though they may survive from the efforts of others.
These parasites clearly make themselves known to the host and the host feels their presence constantly. Sometimes the parasite provides a quid-pro-quo relationship with the host and each will gain something from the relationship.
Other overt parasites can be seen as investors, moneylenders or significant shareholders. There is a phrase from the German story of the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’, which says ‘whoever pays the piper calls the tune,’ In a situation where a person or organization as financial control over you then you will be obligated to follow their rules and do things in accordance with their wishes.
Sometimes this leads to a person losing control of their organization because they gave away their right to independence by selling out or capitulating.
In his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ Professor Stephen R. Covey spoke about the three types of level that effective people operate at.
Dependent people operate at a level of consciousness that is completely parasitic because they cannot exist without the aid of others to ‘prop them up.’
Independent people are completely free and can do whatever they want to do without any assistance from anyone else. They can interact or shun others at their will.
Stephen Covey believed that this stage was the highest level of effectiveness. This is relevant in terms of a division of labour, manufacturing, production, collectivized ideas or consciousness, and yet this level is the most toxic in terms of parasitic behaviour, as this is what leads to wars, pillage, exploitation, economic meltdowns, market crashes, and so on.
To underline this point the first chapter of ‘The Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith in the 18th century shows the process of a seemingly simple object needs to go through interdependent processes before it can be sold. An example of the process for a simple piece of metal could be:
- Sourcing the location of the raw material
- Drilling and mining to extract the raw material
- Inspecting the raw material
- Transporting the raw material to a furnace
- Heating the raw material
- Casting the material into moulds
- Cutting the material
- Shaping the material
- Polishing the material
This could be the process just for one tiny piece of metal. To make an item such as a safety pin the amount of work would need to be drastically intensified and magnified. The point is that for a simple operation like that there would need to be a huge amount of forethought and planning that would deal with a number of teams in possibly a number of countries that require cooperation or in some cases exploitation. A block at any stage of the process would lead to a product being delays or even worse being cancelled until alternative methods can be put in place. If this happens then even the most prosperous country in the world can run the risk of being impoverished within a short space of time if their dependency or interdependency on resources cannot be fulfilled.
When dealing with anyone whose success depends upon your failure or your being disorientated, it is important to understand that unless you can physically, emotionally, or psychologically remove them from your presence you will need sacrifice what the parasite wants by any means necessary.
Manipulative parasites can be either overt or covert in their undertakings. An example of a manipulative parasite in the world of mythology is the character of Mephistopheles who is a manifestation of a Devilish figure in the epic poem ‘Faust’ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1808. The history of Satan or the Devil is a long one that has ancient roots, even before the time of the Semitic Hebrews, but for our purpose here we will concentrate on a singular aspect of the demonic character.
The character of Faust wanted to experience the fullest highs of life and agreed to ‘sell his soul’ to Mephistopheles after he died in exchange for those experiences. The beginning of Goethe’s poem mimics the ‘Book of Job’ from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), in which Job and Yahweh (the Hebrew God) make a bet to tempt the faith of Faust.
I won’t spoil the poem by giving away any more, however the point is that Faust was completely unaware of the manipulation that was going on, even though he was the main topic of discussion.
One interesting aspect is that Mephistopheles worked for the benefit of Faust because it would help him to achieve his long-term aim of gaining Faust’s soul. So the only reason he helped Faust was for his own selfish desires.
There are many other types of manipulative parasites that operate in exactly the same way.
One example would be a drug dealer that would give a new user ‘free test samples’ of drugs until the person would get addicted, then the dealer would demand payment for additional dispensations of drugs.
Missionaries for religions would bring food, clothing and gifts to communities as bribes in order for them to convert to their religions. If this approach failed, then wars and attempts at conquest and violent forcible conversions would ensue. An overwhelming majority of those who are religious today are so because their ancestors were manipulated, conquered or bribed at some point in history.
Sophistry is another way that people can be taken advantage of through manipulation. Here a person can change the meaning of words, or the intended purpose of words or create ambiguity around words.
For solutions on how to deal with manipulative people you can see our feature about the principle of control here – http://anisometric-inc.com/the-principle-of-control/
An essential thing to focus on is to attract the right type of people who will be able to buy into the mission and purpose of your organization. We will share more information on attraction and selection at a later date, for now you should re-read this entire article to gain a greater understanding of what you should be looking out for.