Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When It Comes to People...Are You a Bully or a Builder

Over the course of the past several years, I've written many blog posts on my passions within the membership engagement context.  I 100% believe that if you maximize membership engagement within your association, it solves everything.

Today I want to side track on the subject of people and how we treat them.  It doesn't matter whether you are engaging members, managing your association staff, or trying to inspire your volunteers, how you treat people is 50% responsible for getting them to engage, be inspired, or motivated.

Knowing this begs the question of yourself, "How do I treat I a BULLY or a BUILDER of people?"

A couple of other questions to ponder on this issue are:

- Do you feel you need to emotionally push people around to get them to do what you want?
- Are you more concerned with being right, than having the right decision made?
- Are you comfortable facilitating the right decision vs. being the right decision?

One thing we need to understand is, life is way too hard around us on a day-to-day basis to have a boss, volunteer, fellow employee, or anyone we work with creating unnecessary conflict in our life because of something they lack.   That's right, most emotional bullies are that way because of something they lack internally.

Association work is an amazing opportunity, and is really about creating life change for many people.  We have the opportunity to provide resources and networks of people to create transformation in so many people's lives.  Yet, in this "feel good" state of transforming people's lives, some feel the need to bully or run over people to get it done.

- Is it because you have insecurities?
- Do you feel inferior to those you lead or work with?
- Do you feel you have to "look good" in front of your peers?
- Are their issues in your past with parents or relationships that are unresolved?

Hear me out on this one phrase:  "When PERSONALITIES get in the way of the PURPOSE, that is the beginning of the end of the PURPOSE."

Knowing this, why do we continue to bully those around us to try and get what we want, when it does nothing but serve the purpose of tearing apart a potentially amazing and positive chemistry?

A couple of questions I always ask people about themselves are:

  • If a small group of people see you coming down the hallway, do they seek to scatter before you get to them for fear of your wrath, or do they hang out because they want to have a moment of your time because you provide a positive energy in their life?
  • When people leave your presence, do they feel better or worse about themselves?  Do they feel lifted up and stressed out?

Don't get me wrong...there is a time to be tough, but that is usually when all else has failed.  To be a bully, and seemingly tough at every turn, does yourself, those you manage, lead, work with, and your association, a disservice.  Being a bully divides people.  Being a builder of people brings people together.

When trying to think of an acronym that could easily be remembered on how to treat people you work in any scenario, especially those you lead,  I discovered this:  "We C.A.T.E.R. to our members, staff, and those we work with."  C.A.T.E.R. stands for the following:

Confidence - Impress confidence on your people by having confidence in them.
Authority - Give your people the authority they need to get the job done.
Trust - Let your actions demonstrate that you trust they can make the right choices.
Empower - Don't micromanage.  You tell them the "What," let them figure out the "How".
Respect - You hired respect and allow them the latitude to fail AND succeed.

I'm confident if you live by the philosophy of CATERING to anyone you work with in your association, you will see an exciting environment, within a team of staff and volunteers, that will accomplish whatever goals you establish.

Remember, people want to be a part of an organization that is exciting and empowers them to make a difference.  Bullies get in the way of empowerment and create no excitement.  Be a BUILDER of people and whatc their lives transform those around them.


  1. Tom, I read your blog about "Bully" or a "Builder", and it made me reflect on my personal relationship with a "Bully".

    The tragic thing is that you really don't see it coming, I know I didn't. That was because my Bully was also a fantastic manipulator, and definitely knew how to smile at your face while stabbing you in the back. And then there I was...stuck right in the middle of it. And, I didn't quite know how I got there or how to get out.

    And it didn't get better, only worse, as my Bully was good at convincing (manipulating) other people that I was the problem. My Bully was so good that I even started questioning myself and at times even blaming myself. Yep...I really had a well-trained Bully.

    But deep down I knew it wasn't me. I was just caught up in the web of my Bully. I began questioning their actions trying to figure out how or why they could behave that way. And I asked the same "ponder" questions you outlined in your blog. Was it their insecurities, their inferior feelings, their need to "look good" in front of their peers, or their past relationship issues. The more I thought about those questions, the more I realized that I wasn't the problem. It was their problem, and the scary thing is that I think that they actually enjoyed being a Bully. I think that all the manipulation and back-stabbing made them feel powerful.

    I could only watch and saw no positive outcomes for anyone, especially for me. So the best thing I could do was walk away, which is not an easy thing to do. But looking back today I know that that was one of the best decisions of my life. And, I can only hope that one day that my Bully can find some peace.