Who’s Leading Whom?

“I’m afraid to have the conversation because I’m afraid of how he is going to react!”

Those are the words of Bob, a manager I was coaching a few years ago. This wasn’t a conversation about firing the employee, but it was a difficult conversation that had been put off for too long already.

As a former manager I must admit that I also struggled, at times, to have tough conversations with people that I managed. Apparently, neither I, nor the manager I was coaching is alone.

In a recent article from the website Quartz At Work, the most recent Gallup survey of the U.S. workforce reveals that 69% of managers found “communicating in general with employees” to be one of the most difficult parts of being in a leadership role.

In addition, 37% of managers stated it was difficult for them to give negative feedback, 20% struggled to share their own vulnerability, and 20% dislike having to share company policies.

Notice in the first paragraph. This manager used the word “afraid” twice. In my coaching practice I have found this to be a not uncommon challenge for managers.

While this next point is not the crux of this blog post, and I don’t have any research right now to back it up, I do believe it to be true. This same fear this manager has, employees have with co-workers and employees have this with clients.

So, what’s the impact on your employees and your customers when you are afraid to communicate well?

First and foremost, I believe you are losing trust. If you are avoiding conversations that can be difficult, you are not being honest. Your relationships with your employees are eroding the longer you withhold needed information.

Secondly, if you don’t provide your employees with needed feedback you are denying them the opportunity to get better and improve in their roles. They can’t get better if you don’t let them know how they can get better.

Next, you are creating a culture of us vs. them. Negative conversations begin in the break room or by the water cooler. Rumors, gossip, and half-truths become the norm. Employees leave because they really hate working for your organization. When they’re gone, you wonder what happened.

The list could go on.

Recognize this, the fear of difficult conversations is selfish. Putting them off is all about protecting your self. Others are paying a price because you are not willing to face your fear. Your organization is paying a price because you are not willing to face your fear.

Leadership requires courage. Courage requires you to face your fear. Courage requires you to move forward into your fear and not run from it or avoid it.

Putting it off needs to stop. It’s hurting you, your employees, your organization and your customers. Stop running.

It’s not easy. I know. Leadership isn’t easy. Leaders do get afraid but they act in spite of their fear.

Is there a conversation you’ve been putting off for a while? What do you need to do courageously this week?

Matthew 18:15-17


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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • disqus_ZBXJDbYJHe

    The problem is that due to corporations getting more and more political power in the last 38 years, they feel that they don’t have to communicate with the workers and historically speaking, workers have never been treated as equal partners in the American economy.

    Another problem is that the bosses don’t do anything about the bad employees because they don’t want to spend the time and the effort to get rid of them. In addition, many of these bad employees are spies for managers in order to keep the workers divided and create mistrust among the workforce to prevent workers from being organized.

    • Interesting thoughts, Z. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. I believe what your saying is true of a lot of corporations. I also believe that many organizations are working to treat their employees better as well. Your points are certainly valid in a lot of situations. Thank you! Dave Cornell

      • disqus_ZBXJDbYJHe

        Dear Mr. Cornell:

        I don’t believe that there are many organizations working to treat their employees better; otherwise, the USA would have a superior worker environment and standard of living like they have in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Why would anyone from those countries would want to emigrate to the USA for a better life when their own country has given already given it to them.

        • Thank you for your additional thoughts, Z. From my perspective this is straying away from the original point of the blog. As a result I don’t wish to comment any further at this time. I do greatly appreciate you taking the time to read and post though! Dave Cornell

  • Kelly

    This is on point and very timely as we wrap up 2017 performance reviews and set goals for 2018. I shared this will our managers and supervisors. No one enjoys giving someone feedback that may potentially hurt their feelings, however it’s so important to be constructive. I think of the many coaches I’ve had in my life and if they would not have told me the truth I would not have improved. I try to remember the lessons I’ve learned and know it’s not being mean but supportive and honest.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Kelly! None of us can get better if we don’t know where we need to get better! None of us are ever perfect at this but if leaders recognize the importance of constructive feedback, and employees as well, it will make everyone better! Thank you, Kelly! Dave Cornell