The Courage to Give FeedbackLeadership is not for the faint of heart. There are many rewards, for sure. But there are also a lot of moments when you must ramp up your courage to do what you would rather not do.

Most staff are well intentioned and hard working. Some, however, struggle and need a push or an occasional wake-up call. Unfortunately, those who need these interventions do not always welcome them – which is why it takes courage to provide them.

I have worked with too many teams and too many managers who are suffering in silence because someone who needed significant feedback and course correction is not getting it. We can’t expect people to change if we don’t let them know change is necessary or required.

When we avoid difficult conversations and don’t provide the tough feedback, we indirectly give support to behavior that is a drag on the team and, worse yet, may be destroying the team. Hoping the behavior will just change on its own is easier but never what happens.

So the question becomes – How do we find the courage to do the hard things?

It was helpful to me many years ago when my manager suggested to me that providing the critical feedback someone needs is a demonstration of your investment in that person. If you didn’t care about their growth or performance, you would let it ride. That is the path of least resistance. But because you do care about them and the impact they are having on the work, you spend the time and take the risk of telling them the truth.

His advice was sound. I have found that if I am giving critical feedback in the sprit of helping the other person, investing in the other person’s growth, it is most often received in that spirit.

When the feedback is not received in that spirit, that is also helpful – not to the other person, but to you. What does it say about someone’s commitment to the job and to the team, if they are not open to critical feedback?

Assuming the feedback is delivered reasonably well, a lack of receptiveness communicates a message that needs to be noted. Is this a situation where there is:

A lack of engagement in the work?
A lack of commitment to high quality?
A lack of respect for you and your input?
A lack of felt connection to you and the team?

Whatever it is, it is important that you discover it and can now figure out how to dialogue about it with this person.

The team has important work to do. And the contributions of everyone on the team –not only to the work itself but also to the sense of teamwork and the interpersonal tenor of the group – is critical. If in delivering the feedback you were trying to deliver you uncover an even deeper issue, you are better off.

We don’t usually do a great job of preparing those newly promoted to deliver critical feedback. If you have not had the coaching or mentoring you need to do this well and with confidence, it can be a daunting task.

I will be coming out with a book next month that addresses this challenge as well as many others that we face as leaders of others. I hope you will check it out and let me know if you find it useful.

Watch for Blood, Sweat and Bricks: Laying Your Foundation for Effective Leadership. I’d love to start a conversation with you.

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