Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to offer encouragement but you couldn’t find the words that would equal truthful evaluation? So, what did you do…? Well, if you are anything like I’ve been in times past, you either said nothing at all or you said something to encourage them that was less than accurate.
First off, there are two ingredients that your organization’s culture must not be without – encouragement and critique.
We need this critical duo because leadership is about people and moving forward. Ultimately, we want our organizations to move forward. And, since organizations are made up with people, we want people to move forward.
If you are not prone to encourage others, you will initially have a hard time relating to what I’m writing. Then again, if you are a leader, encouragement must be a big part of your everyday tool-belt. But not the false kind. So, where is the balance and how can we make this necessary leadership instrument work well?
Remember that you are encouraging a person and not a project or failed assignment. As leaders, we need to continually remind ourselves that we are in the people business. That renewed perspective should, in fact, hold us accountable.
Find something positive to say within every ounce of honest critique. Someone said it best: Love without truth is hypocrisy and truth without love is brutality. But truth spoken in love equals maturity. We must do our part not only to help people see where to grow, but also to help them see that they can.
Be carefully specific with your critique. As much as you want to help them see that they can improve, they need to know from your perspective how and where. So, kindly making it clear is more important than feeling like you need to correct a problem. Remember, it’s a person, not a project.
Don’t put yourself in their shoes. Why? Because everyone is different. And, your desire for how evaluation is given will be unique. Go to school on those you lead. Learn what works best for others, not just what works best for you.
Schedule times for evaluation. Neither the need for encouragement nor critique should feel intimidating to exercise. If you have worked it into the regular cycle for debriefing, chances are that no one on either side of the table should be uncomfortable. What gets scheduled gets done.
Just like you, I was taught as a child that if you can’t find something good to say, don’t say anything. So true – and in many contexts. There’s a further reality, however, when it comes to leadership: we have to find something to say. And, we can say something good and truthful at the same time if we just take time to find the words and say them appropriately.