In my last post, I talked about how important it is for leaders to not allow a void of communication to be created. I want to drill down a bit on this with what and how we fill that void. I certainly didn’t intend to say in part 1 that we should only praise or shower people with love. What I believe is that we, as leaders, need to communicate honestly, clearly, directly, and … kindly. Depending on the employee’s performance, those conversations can be threatening, rewarding, or stabilizing.
“Tough Love” is really a misnomer.
If you really care about the individual as a person and you see him/her as a human being with hopes, dreams, fears, and responsibilities every bit as important as your own, you see beyond the job or task they may be failing at. You see them and their happiness. Nobody is going to thrive, over time, if they’re in a job that’s a poor fit with their strengths, values, and/or desires.
Here’s a real-life example (some details have been ‘vagued’ out to protect the innocent) …
“It’s evident to me that you’re unhappy here. I say that because I’ve observed that in your demeanor but I also have some new concerns about the work you’re doing (Here’s what I’ve observed: X, Y, and Z). Job satisfaction and job performance are usually pretty connected so I’m not surprised to see things that concern me on both fronts at the same time. Life’s too short to spend most of your waking hours doing something you’re unhappy about or find unfulfilling. If this is something you really want to do, then I will do everything within my power to help you be successful at it. What are your thoughts?
[Whoa. Do I answer him honestly? He's not attacking me, but he's also forcing me to deal with the issues that I've been trying to avoid. Do I answer him honestly?]
I think the answer to that question, Do I answer him honestly?, depends a lot on your intent as a leader. If your intent is to “performance manage out” this problem child, that will come across. You may not think so, but sincerity is something that is really hard to fake. If someone is being genuine with us we can generally tell, can’t we? It’s a feeling we get. Let’s continue with the feedback conversation:
In order for you to really be successful here, though, I’ve got to see the following changes (1, 2, 3). Here’s the thing, I want two things. I want you to be happy and I want you to be happy here. And, because that’s what I want, I’ll do everything I can to help you be successful. I’ll be more clear about my expectations. I’ll follow up with you about your progress and I’ll listen to your concerns. I won’t hold back my opinions. IF, however, you disagree with my concerns and counsel and therefore disregard it, I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be having a difficult discussion like this again very soon.
The choice is completely yours.
To me, that conversation shows true love (twooo wuv as he says in Princess Bride). We’re deceiving ourselves when we avoid the honest and direct conversations with employees. We’re not being more kind. We’re not doing them any favors. We’re actually doing more harm than good.
The longer you wait, the harder the conversation becomes.
Don’t wait. If you make it a common practice to give direct, corrective feedback as close to the issue as you can, you bring clarity to your team and you avoid mole hills turning into mountains. Show the love. Don’t wait. Tweasure your wuv.