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Want to Win as Boss of the Year? Master This 1 Leadership Trait First

24 Sep 2017

By Robin Camarote

CREDIT: Getty Images

Provide guidance. It’s the single most important thing bosses can do for their employees, according to Kim Scott, the cofounder of Candor, Inc.

“Guidance, which is fundamentally just praise and criticism, is usually called “feedback,” but feedback is screechy and makes us want to put our hands over our ears. Guidance is something most of us long for,” Scott says.

Most leaders provide overarching, long-term guidance. It comes through an annual performance review or during the start or end of a big project. Rarely do leaders get into the habit of providing the regular, weekly or even daily guidance that their teams want so much.

Leaders miss opportunities to provide guidance for several reasons: It could be because they’re simply busy, of course. It can also feel awkward and judgemental to offer criticism to the team, especially if it’s an otherwise positive interaction. Leaders, just like everyone, worry about confrontation and generally try to keep their teams feeling good. But this timidity can keep them from making small corrections that would have a big impact on the individual’s career, productivity, and impact.

Scott shares a story in her article on Radical Candor about a time Sheryl Sandberg gave her guidance: She suggested that Scott get a speech coach. Though this advice could have come across as mean-spirited, Sandberg approached in such a way that felt constructive and kind: she saw the opportunity, clearly conveyed her recommendation, and demonstrated throughout the interaction that she cared personally about Scott. Instead of feeling chastised or insulted, Scott felt empowered to try harder and be better.

Without demonstrating that you care, the person receiving your guidance will understandably get defensive and reject the message. Without appropriate directness, they’ll miss the point entirely. Striking this balance takes practice and differs with each individual.

It makes sense to first invest in building personal relationships and rapport early with your employees early on in your managerial position at a given company. This lays the groundwork for being able to appropriately provide the necessary guidance later. “Caring” must come from an authentic place. You can’t fake it. (Sidenote: If you can’t muster the energy or enthusiasm to personally care about your employees, you shouldn’t be in a leadership position. It’s time to look for another role.)

When you’re already on good terms with all the members of your team, make it clear to them that your intent is to provide guidance both on an annual basis and more frequently as the need arises. This way, they won’t be surprised or think something has gone particularly wrong when you take the time to offer guidance in the future.

A few other guidance-giving tips:

  1. If you need to offer guidance to one or two particular people, do it in a private conversation. This way, they won’t feel like you’re trying to shame them or call them out in front of their colleagues.
  2. Be specific about what went wrong, and offer a concrete action. Suggesting that someone “just do better” isn’t helpful to anyone.
  3. Keep it focused on the action, not the person. This way, they can put that action behind them and focus on doing it differently the next time.
  4. Emphasize that you care, you believe in them, and are there for ongoing support.

You can make a tremendous positive impact on your team by adopting this one, high-impact habit. Providing guidance on an ongoing basis helps you address small problems before they become big issues. By demonstrating how much you care personally and being clear in your recommendations, each team member is more likely to willingly absorb the message and thank you for your input. They’ll be inspired to change and feel supported through the process, and will have more faith in you as a leader.

Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Inc Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Inc Magazine

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