Julie Grass


How to charm them and disarm them


By Julie Grass


Management Consulting + Training



Is there someone in your life who gets in the way of your effectiveness or success?


How is that person getting in your way?


What would you be able to accomplish if that person stopped being an obstacle?


What could you do to transform your human obstacle into an ally?










Have you ever worked side by side with a human stumbling block?  Someone who lives to rain on your parade?  Does that person start to utter the words “rotten idea” even before you’ve finished your sentence?


These people can pop up anywhere.  They are our neighbors, our colleagues, our bosses, our gym compatriots, and members of our boards of directors.  They are our sisters, our uncles, and our in-laws – anyone who makes life more challenging than it needs to be.


So, what can we do to diffuse these obstacles to our success and happiness?


Meet Henry.  He is a development director at a small nonprofit organization.  He does a superior job, raising dollars that exceed his goal even in this tight economy.  He enjoys his work, loves his nonprofit, his boss, and the deeply committed board of directors.


And Henry has a BIG problem.


His problem is that there is one board member who seems joyfully devoted to sabotaging every single thing that Henry does.  This board member, - let’s call him Frankenstein - talks about Henry behind his back, challenges any idea that Henry proposes, and looks for ways to humiliate Henry in public.


If we could magically tap into Henry’s head and follow his thoughts, this is what we might hear:

Why is Frankenstein trying to mess me up? I haven’t done anything to him. I think he just wants credit for everything. I always go out of my way to be nice and complimentary to him. He’s a jerk. I’m not going to acknowledge him anymore. This is his problem, not mine.  Hmm, maybe I can get other board members to hassle him and see how he likes it.



Excuse me, Henry.  I understand your frustration.  I’d feel the same way and likely I’d be exponentially more hostile.  But, practically speaking, here is the question:  Does Frankenstein get in your way and impact your ability to be effective?  Yes!  If you ignore him, will he really go away? Probably not.   So, whose problem is it?  YOURS!


What can you do about it?


  1. Realize the nature of the problem.  It isn’t whether Frankenstein is right or wrong.  It’s a question of whether he blocks your ability to be effective.
  2. Having recognized the nature of the problem, determine your objective.    Clarify in your own mind what you would like to have happen.  You’d like Frankenstein to stop harassing you.
  3. Create a strategy and action plan to implement your objective.  Figure out what you can do to make that happen.  Since most people want to feel valued and heard, can you identify a positive way to engage Frankenstein?  What is he interested in?  Could you neutralize his poison and turn him into a useful ally?


And that three-step approach is exactly what Henry did.   He listened carefully the next few times he saw Frankenstein and picked up a useful tidbit of information. Frankenstein is a passionate weekend photographer.


That provided Henry’s solution.  He took Frankenstein to lunch and filled him in on one of the agency’s greatest, heretofore, unfulfilled needs.  They lacked a talented photographer who would attend functions and take photos of events in action - someone who knew how to capture the kinds of images that would reflect the agency’s mission and core values.  As a board member, Frankenstein would bring great perspective.


Frankenstein was delighted with his new assignment.  They talked about an upcoming golf tournament which Frankenstein tried to squash at the last board meeting.  But now he was bubbling with ideas of powerful images and how he could display them.  He even picked up the lunch check!


So, what magical thing did Henry do to turn Frank around?  He listened to Frank and made him feel important.  It’s amazing what people will do for those two gifts -to be heard and valued.





  • Get to know them better.  Invite them to share their ideas and find positive ways to involve them.


  • Make them your allies.  Talk to them ahead of sharing an idea and ask them to help you think it through.  Role play.  Ask them to propose the idea to you and to fiercely defend it as you play devil’s advocate.   That puts them in the position of seeing its value.


  • Once you identify their interests, recognize them.  That might be emailing an article about mountain biking or sharing info about a new vegan restaurant. 


  • Sit next to them at meetings.  It’s difficult to shut down the guy sitting right next to you.


  • Resist the temptation to be dragged down.  Take the high road.


It may sound like a lot of time and energy to devote to someone who is causing you unnecessary hassles.  And it may not always be worthwhile.  The test is to weigh how much they are getting in your way now, against what life would look like if they were either neutral or supporters.  It’s your choice.




If you have questions or thought to share, please drop me a line at Julie@TheMomentumGroup.biz



Julie Grass, Principal

Julie Grass helps leaders work together more effectively to achieve common goals. She is an organizational troubleshooter, a business coach, and a dynamic retreat facilitator.  Her expertise in strategic thinking, navigating the people dynamics in an organization, and building a sense of "team" helps her clients obtain clarity, improve communication and take action. (Read Full Bio)