Torre was the only New York Yankee manager to work successfully with owner George Steinbrenner, who had changed managers 21 times in his previous 23 seasons of ownership before Torre.
Steinbrenner was wealthy and wanted to win. He was also a difficult person to work with. Torre did two things which anybody can apply to create success when working with a strong willed person. These principles work in any relationship.
1. Show deference by working with the other person to establish a joint agenda. Find out what the other person wants to accomplish and focus on establishing a foundation based on your common goals. In his book Ground Rules for Winners, Torre expands on the idea:
"When you want to advance your own ideas and career goals, concentrate first on your shared agenda. A tough boss or co-worker is not likely to listen if you just confront him or her with demands. However, if you get a dialogue going, and he sees that his interests and yours overlap, he's going to be more receptive. You generate good will, which goes a long way. Sometimes, that's all it takes. In other cases, you have to keep working on the relationship. Your message should be that you have the interests of the company at heart, not just your own interests.
Your tough boss or co-worker may never be ideal. But you can build a professional relationship that serves your needs, his needs, and the larger needs of the organization."
2. We will be more effective if we study our boss and learn the best way to have an effective dialogue with the boss. In his book Ground Rules for Winners, Torre expands on the idea:
"You have to gauge your boss's personality and needs. Your assessment will help you determine what kind of approach will work. Some bosses need to know everything you're doing. Others couldn't care less about operational details. Some are completely secure. Others need reassur¬ance. Some need to be confronted. Others need to be soothed. Some have no sense of humor. Others respond to humor like nothing else.
Observe your boss so you can learn more about how he responds. Then put your knowledge to work. Not to manipulate, but to speak a language he can understand."
Torre learned that Steinbrenner needed reassurance. When Steinbrenner confronted Torre he would reassure the boss that everything would be okay and calm everything down instead of arguing with him or becoming defensive. Torre won four World Series championships instead of getting fired.
How do you show difficult people deference and created dialogue?