Every leader has had to have difficult conversations with team members. Some of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had during coaching relationships weren’t over egregious events, but rather, seemingly small things that were not in synch with organizational values and standards; especially when addressing the senior leaders.
A core philosophy of mine is delivering the kind truth. In other words, being truthful and couching feedback with respect and positive intention. This approach helps people see their own behavior in context of the bigger picture. For example; one CEO with whom we were working would come 10 -15 minutes late to our senior leader meeting, periodically check his smart phone, and clearly tune out of the conversation. He had told me in the beginning of our engagement that he wanted to build a culture of accountability and respect. What he was modeling was neither. And my guess was that no one ever called him on his actions.
I asked to talk with him after one of these meetings and shared my concerns. I respectfully pointed out that in order to achieve his goals for accountability and respect, he needed to demonstrate these very qualities at every turn. Being late demonstrated a lack of respect for his team members. It also showed lack of accountability. His actions were speaking volumes. Some CEOs might get defensive over this type of feedback, but fortunately he was a gracious recipient. He called the senior leaders back together and apologized to them and committed to make a change.
The only way to move an organization forward is to address problems openly and honestly by sharing the kind truth.