“She’s done a great job on all of her performance reviews, but there’s one issue that I still have a problem with. I don’t think she’s ready to be promoted.”
I still remember sitting through another annual promotion meeting where a manager stumbled through the edict from above. There would be no promotion for someone who clearly had risen above the expectations of all that she had been asked and coached to do. In a group of about 50 people, I spoke up and asked, “And, did you confront her about the issue and coach her throughout the last year to improve on this “issue?” His answer: a sheepish, solemn, “No.”
In this situation, a high potential person was being penalized for the lack of leadership of her manager, who did not have the courage to deliver constructive feedback and coach her to become better in a certain area. How can you improve in an area when you don’t even know it’s a problem? Moreover, how do you trust that the positive feedback you are receiving is real and authentic?
As a leader, you must communicate and connect with the people that have been entrusted to you. This point is true in business as well as in sports and life. A great coach must deliver both positive and constructive feedback to his or her team. An effective parent uses coaching and teaching techniques to help his or her children mature and develop into productive members of society who fulfill their purpose. Yelling all the time or giving a flippant response of “Fine.” to the question of “How am I doing?” just won’t cut it. We all want and deserve feedback.
For some, giving feedback comes natural to them. For others, it is difficult. As Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and senior lecturer at MIT, says, "This is new work for most experienced managers, many of whom rose to the top because of their decision-making and problem-solving skills, not their skills in mentoring, coaching, and helping others learn.” Regardless where you fall within this spectrum, it is your responsibility as a leader to communicate with your team and connect in an effective way to help them maximize their potential. As I recently said to a group of athletes who were leaders on their respective teams, “C is for Captain; L is for Leader. Don't sign up for the position if you can't handle the pressure!”
Whether it’s your son or daughter, your teammate, or a member of the team you lead, don’t let words go unspoken that would help them become all that they can be. You don’t want to be in a position where they come back to you somewhere down the road and ask: “Why didn’t you tell me about this and help me try to become my best?”
Do you find it easy to give both positive and constructive feedback to others? What is the best advice you have ever received from a mentor?