Good leaders are always building and maintaining the self-esteem of their team members. In fact, this skill may very well be the cornerstone of effective leadership. However, leaders often move too quickly to take the care needed to do this effectively when providing feedback. The result can be both the loss of loyalty and talent. Both come with a high price tag to the organization.
To illustrate the fragile nature of self-esteem, consider for a moment one of the worlds finest musicians: Beethoven. The film, “Immortal Beloved, ” is about the life of Beethoven and while it has a fictional story line, it also offers many true scenes from this great masters life.
In one such scene, Beethoven is conducting his own composition (imagine that for a moment) but he is completely deaf. This fact, however, has not yet been discovered by his audience or the community at large. Shortly into the piece, the orchestra becomes completely frustrated with Beethoven and literally stops playing. The audience is quite entertained and begins laughing due to their perception of his lack of competence. Beethoven is devistated by their response and leaves the concert hall immediately. It is a painful example of the fragility of self-esteem, and how easy it is for us to jump to conclusions about someone’s behavior and be totally off the mark.
When confronted with performance that falls short of an expectation:
- Take time to gather facts and observe the employee before having a conversation.
- Ask the team member for their opinion first and try to understand the situation from their perspective before providing your own observations.
- Find out if the expectations are clearly understood, or if there are other factors you may not know behind this performance.
- Should the employee admit to a lack of performance they are in essence inviting you to do some coaching. They know they are off track. They need and want you to hold them accountable. Make a contract together for the expected improvements and follow up to see that these promises are kept.
By not jumping to conclusions you give your team member the benefit of the doubt. You are saying, look I do not know all there is to know about you and your job, tell me; I trust you. You'll gain perspective that builds both the relationship and the performance of your employee and your team.
Susan Stamm is a Partner in a Lancaster PA team development firm called The TEAM Approach the publisher of the FREE Team Toolbox. the FREE Team Check-Up and the FREE Team Leader Check-Up.