Difficult Conversations: Are you a judge or a coach?
This month, we’re addressing one of the hardest parts of a leader’s job: addressing performance issues. These conversations are tough but necessary to keep your organization and your team operating at a high level. Unfortunately, we, as humans, tend to try our best to avoid pain and to many people, conversations like these are considered painful even if you’re not the one on the receiving end. But as leaders, it’s our duty to rise above what may feel awkward or uncomfortable and do what’s right… and to do it fast. The longer you wait, the tougher it gets to address the issue. As former President of Chick-fil-A, Jimmy Collins, once said, “Bad news doesn’t get better with time.”
I think where we often get this wrong is in a misbelief that our role as leaders giving feedback is that of judge; we’re the ones with all the right answers whose job it is to deliver those judgments from “on high.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of leader I want to be! And it’s not the kind that results in growth and higher performance in their teams, either.
I was watching the Atlanta Braves receive their World Series rings recently, and something struck me: the coaches were receiving rings too. I say this not to glorify the position of coach, but to point out that the players wanted the coaches to receive a ring. They knew that their coaches were invested in, and crucial to, their success. While at times they likely had difficult conversations about areas for improvement, the coaches cared enough to guide them towards the desired outcome.
That’s how I want to approach feedback and performance issues with my team — as a coach, not as a judge. Here’s how you can spot the difference:
When people aren’t performing at a high level I have to first look at myself. It’s important to acknowledge what my role was is in their problem:
Did I make an error in hiring?
Was I unclear in my expectations?
Did I make an error in training?
Did I neglect to resource them?
Did I make an error in the duties I assigned them?
Based on these answers, I need to reflect on how I can correct these errors in the future. I partnered with my team member in creating the problem — I need to partner with them in solving it.
I then ask, do I see them as the problem or do I see them as potential?
It’s easy to blame others, but as a leader, I must take ownership for where my team members may be coming up short. When I take responsibility as their coach for the issue at hand, it helps me remain patient and productive while we navigate the path forward. Even if that path forward results in them no longer being on my team. Or if it leads to a World Championship for that matter! The best coaches take ownership, have the uncomfortable conversations, call out the best in the team, and see it through.
Do you know something else coaches take the time to do? Celebrate. Let’s continue to look for ways to guide our teams as a coach and, of course, take time to celebrate all we’re accomplishing.
Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.
Founder, Spark A Revolution