Dealing with Teflon People

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Awareness Advantage Podcast
Dealing with Teflon People

Kevin McCarthy, and Likky Lavji


The following is a summary of this episode of the Awareness Advantage podcast. Each week bestselling Blind Spots authors, Kevin McCarthy and Likky Lavji and a studio audience of managers and senior leaders throughout North America discuss overcoming blind spots to develop and lead high-functioning, high-trust teams and organizational cultures. If you would like to be invited to join the live virtual studio audience, click here


Do you work with a Teflon person?

Does nothing stick to them? Do they miss, ignore, or even refute constructive criticism, responsibility or blame?

They are everywhere. So how do you bring the best out in your team if you have a teflon person in the mix? Well it starts with your own self-awareness. Does this person have trust in you? Are you able to take the extra time to react when disappointed in a team member or their performance? 

Once you are able to check yourself, you can begin to ask what is going on with this person. Often teflon people remain in an environment because they are needed. They bring a skillset that is valuable enough for the team and leaders to put up with whatever self-awareness they lack or insecurities they are compensating for. So ask yourself – what is the value this person brings to the team? And how are you going to coach your teflon-person to be the team-player you need they need to be. 

The next step is understanding that your teflon person needs a culture of clarity in order to be vulnerable enough to let something stick. They need to know that the team has commitment in them and that the buy-in and expectation of accountability goes both ways. 

For example, when someone provides a quality work product, and performs the tangible, but fails at the soft skills, or customer service, it can cause friction, and challenges within the team. This one person can change the culture of the group negatively. This nurtures an environment when none of the team members can be at their best. 

The process of coaching and training in these cases starts with curiosity and care. Managers must understand if the teflon person is in fact interested, and coachable in the change. After setting specific standards which all team members must follow (with consequences for all). Is the first requirement. If you want the teflon person to arrive no later than 15 minutes late for work each day, then anyone who arrives late must also face consequences. All expectations should be communicated clearly so there are no expectation gaps. All non-compliance must be documented, because if you need to let your teflon-person go, you will need this documentation (since they are fulfilling their core job stills).

As a manager, you need to know that it will take a time commitment to coach the teflon person. You must create a trust-level connection–which will require you to model vulnerability, set clear expectations, and follow through on any repercussions you set. 


Raising your self-awareness and emotional intelligence will make you a better leader. High self-awareness equips you to identify and conquer the blind spots that lead to poor decisions, strained relationships and high levels of stress. Awareness is the leader’s superpower that drives engagement, inspires retention and shifts culture. Awareness gives you the advantage you need to influence and inspire the people you lead.


If you would like to know more about how self-awareness makes a better leader, download our latest podcast.


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