Leaders! Why aren’t you giving that feedback?

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What’s the feedback that you’re not giving your team members?  

Why aren’t you dealing with it? What’s holding you back?

Are you not giving feedback because you feel that “they should already know what to be doing and not be doing? You shouldn’t have to explain it to them.”

Or is it because you don’t want to sound too critical or mean?

Maybe its’s because it could create a big conflict. You’re afraid that it will “turn into a blow up and you will lose control over the situation?”

Or is it because you are hoping the issue will just resolve itself?

You probably aren’t addressing any of these things because they feel uncomfortable and might put you in uncomfortable situations that you’d rather avoid.

But at what cost?

As a young elementary school teacher I wanted all students to feel loved and appreciated. I held back from giving certain directions because I didn’t want to make students feel disliked judged, humiliated or shamed. What I didn’t realize then that by not addressing a certain behavior directly and with clarity, I tacitly allowed the behavior to continue.

Do you have the same underlying thought that I did then: Do you believe that giving feedback sounds like correcting or criticizing and will make someone feel bad?

Do you fear being the dominating, aggressive or critical leader who puts down others and makes them feel small, so you don’t do anything? (That was me!)

Do you have the underlying thought that confronting problems only leads to arguments, hurt feelings and more conflict?

It’s common for leaders to assume that feedback = criticism = hard feelings. People also tend to think that engaging with conflicts means escalating them.

And that is what often happens.

But, it doesn’t have to happen that way.  

So, how do you deal with negative issues without escalating conflict or making anyone feel put down?

You give feedback and engage with conflict in positive and meaningful ways.

It starts with changing your underlying beliefs and your approach.

Your underlying beliefs about why people show up the way they do will affect the entire organization and environment.

What you believe affects your actions which affects everything!

Below are three core beliefs that can totally change the way you show up in your leadership environment. I adopted these when I was leading an organization knowing that there was no one to advocate for me if any stakeholders got upset. I had to make sure that everyone had a positive experience even when I was redirecting them, giving feedback or disagreeing. I couldn’t take responsibility for their emotions or behaviors, but I could take responsibility for mine.

The beliefs that guided me:

1) Leaders have a responsibility for creating a positive and supportive atmosphere in the shared work environment.  The energy you give is the energy that you will get.

I showed up with an open heart and accepted every person where she was.  I did the internal work necessary so I could operate from a place of positive emotions. (Now I coach others how to do the same!)

2) Everyone wants to succeed and will appreciate well intended and well timed efforts to help them improve as long as leaders communicate in a supportive way. 

When I needed to give a correction or direction, I assumed the position of the encourager who wanted them to succeed. I made it clear how my request connected to their individual or our collective success.

3) Everyone (including me!) is doing the best that they can in any given moment.

This doesn’t mean that they are always performing at their best. They may not be living up to their potential or performing at their best at each moment. With leader support and guidance “their best” improves.

Ah, I hear your questions:

“How am I supposed to stay calm and positive when the people I lead do something to upset me?  They should see that they’re actions upset me!”

While it may be entirely valid for you to be upset, it is not necessarily productive or helpful for you to communicate from that place.

Shifting from your emotion to leading effectively is one of the most important skills you can learn.

The clients I work with build the self-awareness and self-management that allows for these kinds of shift and consequently their influence and impact on the people that they serve increases. (Learn more about developing self-awareness in a previous blog.)

“But when if they really are slacking! Am I supposed to pretend that they are doing a good job?”

No, you don’t need to pretend. If you believe that you and the people you supervise are doing their best and working to succeed then you don’t see them as slacking. You get curious about why their work isn’t meeting their potential and you offer the support they need to support that gap. You challenge and support them to do better. (By the way, this works really well with teens too!)

By using a non-critical, non-judgmental tone and coming from real open curiosity the person has no reason to get defensive. They may tell you something happening in their life causing them stress, or even confess that they aren’t feeling great about their work.

They will let you in which opens the door to solving problems peacefully.

What are the underlying beliefs that drive the way you communicate with others about your shared work environment, growth opportunities and solving problems?  What tools do you need to be the leader who turns problems into opportunities for connection and growth?

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