Buckets of Muck and Other Problems with Delay

Bring up poor performance when it happens or smile and let it go. Don’t keep filling buckets with muck to throw later.

Delay isn’t compassion, when it comes to feedback. It may be cowardice.

silence solidifies poor performance

3 Dangers of delay:

#1. You validate poor performance when you don’t bring it up. Team members feel like they’re doing OK. You feel like you’re being kind. Neither is true.

Silence solidifies poor performance.

#2. You dig up the past to justify negative feedback, when you finally speak it. The danger of not bringing up poor performance – when it happens – is bringing up a history of falling short.

Piling on beats down.

#3. Employees feel blindsided and discouraged when you throw buckets of muck instead of giving timely feedback on one issue.

Delay is cruel, not kind.


Patience is giving people space to develop known deficiencies, not silence when they fall short. You aren’t being patient if you’re filling buckets with muck to throw later. 

In order to be patient with teammates, they must be working to improve known deficiencies.

Empty your buckets of muck – start fresh:

#1. Create a culture of pressing toward excellence.

  1. Discuss the pursuit of excellence at team meetings.
  2. Make developmental goals public. “I’m working on a weekly gratitude walk,” for example.
  3. Discuss ways to give timely feedback to each other.
  4. Commit to seeking and giving timely feedback. It’s one thing to discuss. It’s another to commit.
  5. Give feedback on giving feedback.

#2. Practice transparency regarding weaknesses. Have an “I’m not so good at” conversation. Invite each team member to say, “I’m not so good at ….” (The team already knows.)

Transparency with weaknesses is permission to bring up poor performance.

#3. Agree with “I’m not so good at” statements. Say, “You’re right. You’re not good at….” Have fun with it, but don’t coddle people by saying, “You’re not that bad.”

How might leaders develop their ability to bring up poor performance?

What must be true of leaders if they commit to bringing up poor performance when it happens?

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