Being a business advisor and an executive development coach for fast-growing technology companies, I will occasionally run into a new Manager who is a leader for the first time in their career. As inexperienced managers will sometimes do, these talented new leaders will let their insecurities and fears convince them that they cannot or should not tell one of their employees when their behavior doesn’t measure up to the standards of the team. One of the clear signs that you’re weak as a manager is when you are intimidated by the responsibility to tell your teammates when the quality of their work just won’t cut it. If you think about it for a moment, if a leader is going to hold their team up to high-quality standards, they MUST be willing to have the tough conversations with a teammate when that teammate’s work is not up to snuff.
A Quick Process For Addressing The Challenge
If you’re going to maintain high standards, or better yet, very high standards, you must be willing to talk to your team when efforts fall short, period. Here’s how:
First Step: Address the situation sooner, rather than later. Immediately is best, if it can be done with both candor and respect for the teammate, and will demonstrate that you care about them.
Second Step: Confirm that you have your story straight before you assume that you need to correct their behavior. Ask them a question like, “Hey, can you tell me how your project turned out?” or “I heard this, is that relatively accurate or did I get the story wrong?”
Third Step: Gently, but very directly, tell them exactly what was done that is inconsistent with standards or expectations. Be specific, but be constructive at the same time. Be certain to avoid any personal judgment, just challenge the behavior, not the individual.
Fourth Step: Communicate your disappointment with how this particular activity turned out, but then quickly pivot to how easy it will be to adjust and get it right next time. Encourage your teammate to act quickly to rectify the problem, and communicate your continued faith and belief in them.
Well, that’s it. A clear, concise process for addressing a problem with a teammate who has fallen short of your expectations or the established standard of quality or behavior. Four, easy to execute steps. What do you think? Could you see yourself implementing them? I certainly hope so. Here’s the thing, a Manager or a Leader who is unwilling to correct aberrant behavior on the team that they lead is not really leading or managing at all. Inspire your people to raise the level of their game. While your people may first think that you are a mean old curmudgeon, you are as Dan Rather used to say, “poking them with a stick called truth” as you lead them to a better life and better work performance. Demonstrate to them that you care about them and that you care about everyone else, as well. For THAT reason, you cannot afford to tolerate inadequate or inappropriate conduct or behavior. Let me know how it turns out for you, if you use this helpful little process. It’s been working for me for many years, and it works for all of my clients as they lead their teams. Best of luck to you!
Michael Beach is an executive development coach and business advisor, and the founder of Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, a coaching firm that provides Executive Development Coaching Services to fast-growth companies, mostly in the technology industry space. Michael is the host of the “What Are YOU Doing?” podcast, which focuses on helping leaders and emerging leaders to maximize their efforts to develop their own leadership abilities while they invest in the development of the next generations of leadership for their organizations. Consider subscribing to the “What Are YOU Doing?” podcast today. You can find the podcast on the Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting website, via LibSyn, Spotify, or Apple podcast. We’d love to have you as a regular listener!