Assertives Beware!


Last month I wrote an article giving some insight into the three negotiator types by using 3 head football coaches in the NFL as comparison: Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks) – Accommodator, Bill Belichick (New England Patriots) – Analyst, and Jim Harbaugh (San Fransisco 49ers) – Assertive. Since then reports from NFL analyst Deion Sanders and Fox Sports Jay Glazer have surfaced indicating Jim Harbaugh, our assertive, is not so well liked and may in fact lose his job over that conundrum.

Jim Harbaugh

There is no doubt Jim Harbaugh is a good football coach. Not only does he have the opportunity to be the first head coach of the 49ers to lead the team to four straight conference championship games but he is in fact beloved by a number of his players. To quote a few public responses from players since the recent news erupted: “I would go to war with Coach Harbaugh any day”, “I believe as a football player he loves me”, and “We are a family”. Unfortunately, a fiery passionate approach is sometimes misconstrued and constant bombardment of it can lead to resentment.

In negotiations or situations of conflict, Assertives will do what they have to in order to get their point across, even if it means inadvertently rocking the boat. Analysts are tremendously efficient working alone and never present a problem without having thought of solutions. Accommodators will go out of their way to do things to build or strengthen a relationship. I am here to tell you Assertive types rarely mean to rub people the wrong way. There is not a conscious effort to upset people but getting a point across is usually more important than stopping to consider how the counterpart might react.

In an article posted on bleacher report By Cam Inman gives us another example of how an assertive might see themselves versus how they are seen by others:

On the Rich Eisen radio show, when Eisen suggested to York (Jed York – CEO of the 49ers) that Harbaugh needs tension to succeed, York called that assessment “fair.” York then added: “Jim competes at anything and everything he does. That sometimes rubs people the wrong way. But he has an amazing way to be able to pull people together and find a way to win tough football games, put himself in a position to have his team have the most success.” Jed York also states via his Twitter account “We are trying to win a super bowl not a popularity or personality contest.”

When Harbaugh was asked if he’s aware his prickly personality can bruise other’s feelings, he replied: “No, not so much.”[1]

There may in fact be some players in the 49ers locker room that don’t have an affinity toward Coach Harbaugh, heck I didn’t like half my coaches when I played the game, but his real problem is with the front office. The people in charge of making the decisions on personnel within the organization obviously find it very hard to deal with Harbaugh.

Lee Iacocca

There are many admirable traits about the assertive type, being logical, upfront and direct. In business, just like in sports, winning covers up a lot of dirt or animosity. Lee Iacocca was the savior of The Chrysler Corporation in the 1980’s. Iacocca knew what needed to be done to bring Chrysler out of the darkness so he told people what to do and did it with gusto. He was a winner, he was passionate, he rocked the boat with his assertive personality and as soon as the board had the opportunity they got his seemingly abrasive attitude out of there.
With that said, I still believe Jim Harbaugh will continue to be successful with the 49ers and win a Super Bowl, but when “the board” feels he is no longer needed they will be happy to show him the door and bring in a fresh start. So if you are that assertive type just beware you may have already started digging your own grave.
To reverse that process, add some of the EQ skills that we all like about the Accomodators (positive, supportive attitude, smiling tone of voice) and you can still be yourself.
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About The Author

Brandon Voss is the Director of Operations and an Instructor/Consultant with The Black Swan Group. Brandon has been instrumental in adapting the FBI’s hostage negotiation techniques to the business world. In addition to training clients, Brandon has guest lectured at USC Marshall School of Business and Georgetown McDonough School of Business.