Tough Love’s Powerful Truth

Difficult conversations are just that. Difficult. It takes courage and kindness to deliver powerful feedback when something isn’t going to plan. Regardless of whether the recipient is a colleague, partner, friend, relative or employee – tough love is hard to deliver. Today’s Karen Gately blog discusses the empowering and respectful process of delivering fair  and necessary feedback with conviction. So read on, and make the decision to have that chat which is waiting on the backburner.

It can be hard to give honest feedback to your staff when things aren’t going well. Time and time again I observe managers avoiding having the difficult conversations they need to have. In my experience some managers worry about how the person will react and others avoid the discomfort they expect to feel.  Some struggle to identify specifically what needs to change and others have difficulty putting their concerns into words.  Many don’t want to make the person feel bad and some justify inaction by believing ‘negative’ feedback will further diminish the persons confidence and therefore performance.

While these are all common and understandable challenges it is undoubtedly a leaders’ responsibility to overcome these barriers to providing their team member with the feedback they deserve to receive.  Even the most confronting feedback brings with it the opportunity to understand the truth and take ownership for changing reality.  It is unfair to allow someone to fail without trying to help them and it’s unreasonable to expect their colleagues to carry the burden and consequences of poor performance.

As Ghandi put it – “…whenever you have truth it must be given with love.  Otherwise the message and the messenger will be rejected”.  I call this tough love – the ability to be completely honest but deliver the message with compassion and sensitivity. Leaders who are skilled in the art of tough love have the ability to build confidence and inspire a desire in others to succeed. Leaders who deal with performance challenges through direct and compassionate communication have the opportunity to influence their staff to shift fear into courage, overcome confusion and find clarity, let go of frustration, feel a sense of relief and turn resignation into determination.

Tough love can be particularly powerful when the underlying cause of poor performance relates to bad behaviour or attitude.  At times all we need is for someone to hold a mirror up in front of us so we can see ourselves and understand that we are creating our own challenges.  When the person holding the mirror is someone we trust and respect we can be inspired to confront our reality and take ownership of our need to change.

I encourage leaders to challenge themselves to act with integrity and fulfill their duty to provide their staff with honest and compassionate feedback.  They need to dig deep and find the courage to overcome their fears and invest the time and energy it can take to deal with poor behaviour and performance.

Successful leaders provide the truth – the gift of opportunity we give to allow another to be at their best.

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3 thoughts on “Tough Love’s Powerful Truth

  1. A cornerstone skill for all great leaders I feel. Great post Karen, I look forward to reading your ideas on a structured approach to this for the manager that doesn’t have this skill naturally.

  2. Pingback: Nice & Successful | Karen Gately

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