There are some things I have learned over the years in my work with people that do not change. This week was a week of days where one of those lessons was repeated every day.
I can’t go faster than my client.
Now the truth is that of course I CAN go faster than my client. Internally I often do. However, that serves little purpose in our work together because pushing or pulling others rarely gets anyone to the desired outcome faster. People come to awareness, motivation, and behavior change in their own time. Bosses can provide deadlines and request compliance. They can provide rewards for compliance or consequences for non-compliance (AKA Carrot or stick). It requires coaching, counseling, and providing feedback but not all bosses have those skills.
My ability to see ahead of my clients only serves me in that I can see what is likely to happen. I can then prepare for what many occur by offering information, coaching, asking really good questions, holding up a mirror, pointing out gaps or discrepancies, giving feedback, and providing a little old–fashioned noodging. What I can’t do is make them get there.
Things that people don’t want to hear are rarely received well. I remember reading that ‘there is no such thing as a diplomatic hand grenade.” In a training program I conducted this week, I was asked about how to deliver improvement feedback gently.
It’s something people struggle with and I include myself in that group. I don’t want to get too far ahead and rush in with information someone isn’t ready to hear, but I also don’t want to shy away from being honest and genuine. Finding a place to land in-between is challenging.
Improvement feedback can be delivered very gently. It is often surrounded by support, encouragement, and a recitation of all the good things that someone does and the value that those actions add. The problem is that often lost if all of the gentleness and support is the truth that needs to be delivered and heard.
Consideration about how best to tell someone that their work is not up to the standard required or finding a less harsh way to tell an employee that they are requiring too much of your time and attention is a skill that can be developed. It may come easier to some than others, but everyone can improve with practice. It’s those practice sessions that can be tough.
I like to think that when I’m direct and candid with the people, they understand and trust that I am an ally. I am on their side and want them to be successful. I regret that this is not always the case. I wish they knew that I don’t bother with people I don’t care that much about.