You’re known for being nice, but in leadership, being nice can sometimes backfire when nice and being respected doesn’t line up. Yes, it’s important to be an empathetic and genuine leader, but some managers may find that their team members take advantage of “nice” leaders who fail to tend group boundaries and team behavior expectations. The insubordination may be subtle, such as employees coming to work just one or two minutes late or not following the company’s dress code. Or, disrespect can be blatant, such as consistently missing deadlines or engaging in aggressive and toxic behavior toward others. Whatever the case may be, leaders need to tend the boundaries on behavior while clearly expressing their expectations of their employees. One way to do this is through effective coaching techniques.
Coaching, tending team behavior boundaries and offering constructive feedback are essential components of effective leadership. It is even more important for disrespected leaders judged to be too nice. The following techniques and team building tips are designed to improve leadership coaching to generate constructive feedback, boundaries and behavior expectations for employees.
Make it personal.
Coaching and feedback on employee performances should be personal, as employees need specific examples regarding their own performances to improve. During a one-on-one meeting, leaders can make it personal by identifying their team member’s strengths, asking questions and creating a custom development plan that supports trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success in the workplace. By identifying the team member’s strengths, leaders can set the tone in a positive light, rather than only focusing on what needs to improve. This will allow the team members to be more open to constructive criticism because they know the leader will level consequences – both good and bad. Leaders should then ask questions of their team members, about how they believe they are performing, and in the areas that they believe require improvement. The two can then work together to create an individualized improvement plan with measurable goals and milestones.
Point out the good with the bad.
When offering suggestions for improvement, it helps to first point out what the team member has done well and leverage this strength. A phrase like “What you’re doing is working well, so now I’d like you to…” is a great opener because it allows the team member to feel appreciated while you’re still able to point to the next skill that your team member should focus on.
Understand your own shortcomings.
Leaders are not right 100 percent of the time, and they have their own biases and opinions about things, which may or may not be on target. So when a leader is offering feedback to their team members, they need to be able to separate their bias from fact. This can be achieved by looking at company metrics, assessing skills or utilizing a team surveys to assess team dynamics and behavior. A third-party team survey will be able to assess team member’s collective behavior and offer strategies for improvement without bias.
Keep your business and personal lives separate.
While it makes sense on paper, it can prove to be extremely difficult to separate your business life with your personal life. But just as it’s not fair to take out your work problems on your spouse, it’s not fair to take out your personal problems on your team members. So when you are offering feedback and constructive criticism to your team members, make sure you are coming from a professional stance, rather than a personal one. It’s also important for your employees to understand the difference. Encourage a healthy work-life balance with your employees, and make sure that they understand that when you are offering feedback, you are only referring to their work performance and not their person.
Ask the right questions.
Ideally, leaders offer feedback on a regular and timely basis, rather than once a year at the performance review. Unfortunately, all too often leaders feel that the only time they should be performing reviews is during annual reviews that can result in a raise. But for a team to be successful, leaders need to make regular coaching and feedback a priority. During these meetings, leaders need to know how to ask the right questions that supports performance. Leaders need to already recognize some of their team members’ strengths and weaknesses, so rather than ask what those are, leaders should ask how team members have improved their skills. This places the focus on utilizing employee strengths to improve in their positions. Along the same line, leaders should ask team members what they learned from a conflict (right after it happened) so that team members feel that their leaders are paying attention to what’s happening in the workplace.
Empathetic and genuine leadership is valuable and important for the workplace, and leaders need to make sure that they are calling the shots and holding their team members accountable. This can be achieved through regular coaching and feedback. Leaders can learn to offer constructive feedback by making it personal, pointing out the good with the bad, understanding their own shortcomings, keeping their personal and business lives separate and asking the right questions. With these team building tips, leaders can train their team members to improve their strengths and downplay their weaknesses for better workplace performances.
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Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton
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