Quick, Clear, and Loving
Three steps to making correcting people less painful
Anyone in a leadership position can relate to the awkwardness and pain that comes when trying to admonish someone and help them be better at whatever job they hope to accomplish.
Walking the delicate balance between reproving and reprimanding can be difficult. Emotions often get involved (no one likes being told they're doing or did something wrong), and it can be easy for situations like these to break down trust.
Here are three simple steps you can take to help make those situations more effective, less awkward, and trust-building.
One of the most common leadership mistakes is not correcting someone as soon as they recognize a problem. Many leaders limit their correction, making a note to talk with someone about it in the next one-on-one or review. Delaying correction allows for the undesired actions more time to solidify into a habit that can be increasingly hard to break.
Instead, when you notice something that is not being done correctly, correct it as quickly and matter of factly as possible. Limit the correction's awkwardness by doing the correction privately, but don't let the quest for a private moment perpetually delay the discipline - the goal is to set the person on the right path as quickly as possible.
Correct with clarity
A few years ago, I was in a leadership position where I had to sit down with someone about their performance issues. After having a long talk with the person, I emerged feeling like I had explained well enough the problems we had been seeing without harping specifically on that individual.
Later, after the performance didn't improve, they expressed surprise that there was something wrong. I realized my dancing around the issues to spare their feeling had put them in a position where they didn't know how severely they were underperforming.
The lesson for me, and now hopefully one you can take, is to make sure your correction is as clear as possible. Ensure individuals understand expectations and the consequences if things don't improve.
When things are addressed early in the process or right after the unwanted action, you can more easily clearly define the undesired behavior. The longer you wait, the less clarity the individual will have.
Correct with love
I once talked with a friend who shared an issue they were having with one of their co-workers. They shared the problems and mentioned that their boss didn't feel like they could do anything about it because they "were too close of friends" with the person having issues.
Letting someone go uncorrected is one of the least friendly things that someone could do. It spares the leader, not the employee. If things work out, rarely will the leader face any consequences.
One of the most common and understood expressions of love is the correction a parent gives to a child. Not wanting to stop a child from touching a hot stove, so the child continues to love you borders on child abuse - yet refraining from giving correction as managers, bosses or leaders is commonplace.
A correction is an act of love. When done quickly and with clarity, you can express an increased affection for the person and increase your desire for their welfare. Make it clear you're here to help.