To Lead, Don’t Be a Friend…Be Frank

We all want to be liked. That’s especially true in an office/work environment. But good leaders know that sometimes, being honest and frank, keeps your employees moving forward. Too often a leader’smfirst desire is to be a friend to their direct report versus an objective observer who discerns behavior that can be strengthened.

Stop Worrying About Feedback

You can’t lead if you are overly concerned about the feedback you give. Rather, worry about how you’ll deliver your coaching to them. Have your feedback be a contribution, not a castigation.

Remember Their Goals

The way to succeed at delivering sensitive/tough feedback is to initiate the conversation with a developmental goal you know your direct has from your previous conversations.

You might say; “I realize a goal of yours is to be viewed as a true adviser by your client, where your ideas are considered smart and timely, is that right?”

You can then introduce your feedback pursuant to this goal/desire upon which you both have agreed. In this way, your observations are not seen/heard as a criticism but rather a contribution.

Soft Serve is for Ice Cream

It doesn’t serve people to soften your feedback; it serves them to accurately pinpoint what they did that was not aligned with the developmental goal they said was dear to them.  Sugar-coating it, or not making your points strongly, leaves room for interpretation on their part. They might think they did an adequate job, when in fact you were trying to communicate a much different situation. Give it to them straight, based on their goals, and get to the root of the issue. Your direct will get over any feeling of inadequacy when you are both working on a solution.

And they’ll like you for it!


5 replies
  1. Frank Ingruber
    Frank Ingruber says:

    Thanks Stephen for your very useful comments. While a leader can’t always be a friend (I disagree that he/she can never be a friend) it is important that the staff member knows that you respect them, see potential in them, and have their best interests at heart. I believe that a leader’s job is to make their staff as good, happy, useful, productive and well integrated as possible. That way, they will shine for the organisation and indeed for themselves.


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