When talking about building good relationships we seldom talk about those times when we have to be critical or offer challenging feedback. As a Vice Principal I learned this from my Principal. He always said to me,
“If you aren’t willing to go to the hard places,
then you aren’t helping your staff or your school.”
I think sometimes there is a perception that ‘for the sake of a relationship, I’ll let this slide’… with ‘this’ being anything that is less than satisfactory or maybe ‘meeting expectations’ but not going beyond that (when we know it could).
‘Good enough’ is not good enough!
If we truly want our team to improve, then we need to make sure that we start with having high expectations for ourselves and for all of our team members. We do no one a favour if we lower our expectations because we are concerned that our feedback is critical and may thus hurt our relationship.
When we avoid giving critical feedback, are we being helpful?
Being critical doesn’t mean being unkind, or being negative, it means being decisive and/or focussed on producing positive outcomes. Our relationships with our team can be strengthened by critical feedback. If we show that we are coming from a place of caring, then critical feedback can be very powerful and beneficial to everyone.
I think there are times that we need to realize the difference between being a leader and being a cheerleader. We don’t help our team if we cheer for them, when we should be coaching them.
Our coaching style can still foster a good relationship, but if we aren’t critical about our team improving… If we aren’t willing to ‘go to the hard places’ to make sure our team members improve in areas where we see them struggle, then all the cheerleading in the world won’t make our team better.
We need honest feedback to help us grow!
Good relationships have to include knowing how to cope well with giving and receiving difficult feedback, honestly and sincerely, rather than avoiding it. That said, it’s also a leaders job to be the cheerleader too! We have to see the positives, and take time to highlight and cherish them. But very often true growth and learning opportunities are hidden in places that are hard to go to.
As a leader if we don’t have relationships where we can go to the hard places, then we aren’t being the best leaders we can be.