The Three-Legged Stool of Effective Performance Conversations
If half-truths are lies, being nice makes us liars.
The need to be nice is about:
- Preventing offense.
- Keeping the peace.
- Protecting status.
- Being liked.
Being too nice often includes shading the truth.
- When protecting feelings prolongs frustration, nice is too nice.
- When strong team members hobble themselves, nice is too nice.
- When persistent low performance is accepted, nice is too nice.
- When feedback includes reasons poor performance is OK, nice is too nice.
Too much niceness makes leaders chicken out.
Nice leaders end up complimenting when they should call out.
Too much niceness validates disappointing performance by making excuses for others. I’ve actually heard leaders explaining why the poor performance of others is acceptable.
An excuse is the reason poor performance can continue.
Too much niceness results in blowups. Being nice makes you wait too long to speak up. Then, one day, anger turns to courage.
The leaderly thing to do is risk offending someone in order to bring them benefit.
The power to address disappointing performance and come out better on the other side is a three-legged stool.
- Courageous candor.
- Gentle kindness.
- Vulnerable transparency.
Gentle kindness, apart from candor and transparency, makes feedback useless.
You’re ready to bring up disappointing performance when:
- The future is more important than the past.
- You’re prepared to give candid, kind, transparent feedback.
- You’re open to the possibility you could be wrong.
- Standards and expectations are clearly known.
- You have examples.
- You’re prepared to explore and define new goals and behaviors. Negative feedback without forward-facing behavior-based goals is selfishly getting something off your chest.
- You’re ready to support forward movement.
It’s not that you need to be mean. It’s that niceness on it’s own isn’t enough.
How might nice leaders learn candor and vulnerability?
Dan, excellent, thanks.
# 8. If we are seeing too much disappointing performance, then we need to ask, Why?
Thanks Bob. Absolutely…and the answer might be a leadership issue, not an employee problem. 🙂
“..we perform against a standard we’ve agreed upon, its not a matter of me being strict, nice, or anything else..” is a phrase that has come from me.. I never liked these type of meetings so keeping short accounts — on both encouragement and correction — is helpful to me.
I see encouragement is different than “nice” — encouragement finds and brings forward strengths, nice covers weaknesses which may be appropriate in isolated cases (like a serious illness) but is not a sustaining management posture. Being gentle is always appropriate.
Thanks Ken. Your distinction between encouragement and too much niceness. Very helpful.
It’s sad when “too nice” is a negative quality. 🙁 I think your list describes someone who is an ineffective leader, rather than “too nice.” (The world needs more nice…)
Thanks Dianna. You’re so right. The world needs more nice as long as candor and vulnerability are part of the mix.
This is an interpersonal issue in all circumstances. I so relate.
Great article and so relevant in our so nice yet often equally unkind work culture. – A primer on how to transition to more transparency and candor would be supremely useful. – Transparency, like equity, is one of those organizational values that everyone claims to subscribe to and yet is rarely defined, which leads to accusations of opacity and mistrust.
Spot on! Your message strikes at the heart of what impedes “continuous improvement.” Now could you write one about the effects of silos?
This is my boss, which is driving me crazy – it’s like rewarding bad behavior by being too nice. (Full disclosure, I have a problem with being too nice too.) This is great perpective. I appreciate it.
Nice is unlike other four – letter words. There is nothing wrong with keeping the peace, not being offensive, protecting your status and being liked. All of the things on that list look like protecting one’s self interest but with a closer look, you would not want to ignore their importance. I would only add that when those become your priorities rather than the work or conversation at hand, that you are not present where you are needed. When you see yourself in that place, it helps to talk to someone about getting back out of your shell and joining the good fight.
Just catching up on your posts as I’ve been traveling. This is a great post! Nice job!
Negative feedback without forward-facing behavior-based goals is selfishly getting something off your chest.
I’ve been going through an investigation now for about 6 weeks. I’ve been on the job for about 2.5 years. I have a staff who did what they wanted with the previous supervisor. I have 2 shift supervisors who are not qualified along with the cooks who are not qualified. I have come in and learned things on a need to no basis. I was nice and they took my kindness for a weakness. I began to start writing up staff and was on the verge of getting the shift supervisors demoted. An anonymous letter was written and false allegations were made. The investigators believe the staff and my direct supervisor who is the Assistant Director who gave me guidance through every decision I told him about is throwing me to the wolves. Now I am on egg shells and unable to really supervise because of this mess. How do I take back control without them using any tactics against me? My supervisor has always told me that he would not let anyone be the reason he lost his job, so even though he has guided me with all decisions made he has thrown me under the bus behind my back with the investigations because it was all done in meetings and he never put information in any emails. Any suggestions from anyone would be helpful?
Employees’ lack of job success/engagement starts with the CEO.
CEOs hire the managers.
Managers hire the employees.
Employees don’t hire themselves.
When there are disengaged or problem managers/employees we need not look beyond managers and executives.
* Too many employees are in the wrong jobs, i.e., management errors.
* Too many managers are in the wrong jobs, i.e., executive errors.
* Too many executives are in the wrong jobs, i.e., CEO errors.
* Too many managers and executives Reward A hoping for B.
* Poorly behaving employees are tolerated, i.e., management errors.
* Poorly behaving managers are tolerated, i.e., executive errors.
* Poorly behaving executives are tolerated, i.e., CEO errors.
In other words, we get who we hire and who we promote.