Tough conversations of leadership

Leadership requires mutual trust but also the courage to talk truth. It is with constant amazement when I learn a “leader” is hesitant to have tough conversations about attitude or performance. It is even more shocking when I learn they keep performance files on direct reports that are discussed at annual or semi-annual performance reviews.

Employees have expectations of the leaders they choose to follow. They expect the leader is honest with them about their performance. Without realizing this necessary honesty, they will do what they are told, but the fire and passion is missing from their work. What they want from a leader is frequent, consistent and timely feedback. Workers don’t walk into work saying, “I’m going to do my best to mess up today.” They come to work with the intention of doing what is expected of them and doing it well. If we agree this is their daily motive, then we are assuming righteous intentions. So when a mistake was made it was made because of bad information, bad training or bad judgement. These three causes can be corrected simply and swiftly.

Here is how to correct mistakes due to bad information. Ask them where they got the information. Thus us not a judgmental question but a question of curious inquiry. When they tell you the source if the information you are presented with a teaching moment. Don’t just tell them why the information was wrong but more important why it was bad information. Adults want and need understanding to fully learn. Then allow them to correct the mistake and acknowledge them when they have righted the wrong.

If the mistake was due to poor or incomplete training, shame on us. We have the responsibility to give employees the tools to be successful and one of the most basic tools is quality training. This creates another teaching moment for us to re-teach the proper process to do their job but we owe them an apology for failing them in their training. Under your watchful eye and tutelage, allow them to do the job the right way and applaud them when they are successful

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