John Maxwell is exceptional in the area of leadership. If you have not read his books, The 5 Levels of Leadership, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and others, I would highly recommend them. They are very specific, full of terrific examples and highly practical in being able to apply the key concepts he believes leaders must exhibit to demonstrate high performance and create outstanding environments.
Throughout his books, he has a strong focus on the concept of relationships between leaders and staff exhibiting both care and candour. He points out that a lot of leaders avoid some of the difficult conversations and feedback that employees require to learn and grow to their full potential. From my experience coaching senior executives, leaders struggle with demonstrating candour or honesty for a number of reasons. Some of these include wanting to be popular, keeping people happy, or concerned about the impact that doing this may have on their team or the staff member in the short term.
The switch in my thinking around just how important both elements are in giving feedback occurred a number of years ago. I was avoiding some difficult conversations with a senior executive who was not performing to their potential. This staff member was talented and performing well in their own department silo but was not collaborating well with his peers and was not recognised as a team player. It had been something I had been putting off for a number of weeks. It could not be put off any longer due to the impact of this behaviour on others. One of the pieces of advice in one of John’s books that I was reading at the time focused on changing the view of the conversation to the view that the care you have for the person meant you could not possibly avoid the necessary candid conversations focussed on improvement. It was put in a manner that gave you the confidence to have the conversation as by putting it off you were letting the person down.
The conversation that took place was very positive from all angles. The individual appreciated the honesty of the feedback and the place it had come from, i.e. a place of care. The rest of the executive team and wider organisation had a higher level of respect for me as a leader because I had not avoided the difficult but necessary conversations.
The insight of this for all leaders is simple but powerful. Change your thinking on the reason for giving both care and candour in your feedback and watch your hesitancy to have the conversations leave. Care and candour are not mutually exclusive. They live in harmony for leaders who are exceptional at providing specific feedback towards high performance. Your team not only need it; the level of respect that honesty accompanied with care for your staff has on your leadership effectiveness is game changing.