Help Them See It

During several recent coaching sessions, I was talking with leaders about the importance and necessity of helping their team members seeissues, shortcomings and opportunities to improve. Through these discussions, it became clear that managers and leaders usually fit somewhere in a range of approaches – only one of which is truly effective in helping team members improve and grow.

Here are the four different approaches that managers and leaders take with their team members:

  1. Miss It or Ignore It– This is the “approach” where so-called managers fail to identify a team member’s challenges and growth opportunities, often due to a failure to be fully engaged with the team or the desire to avoid providing constructive feedback. If you don’t see or acknowledge it, you can’t help change it.
  2. See It but Tolerate It– This approach is used by poor managers who are aware of a team member’s challenges and improvement opportunities, but either fail to be clear with the team member about them or tolerate the shortcomings for known or unknown reasons. Either way, these managers abdicate their essential role in helping team members understand and then improve.
  3. See It and Clearly Communicate It– This is the approach of managers who are aware of their team members’ challenges and clearly communicate them to the team members, as well as sometimes (but not always) communicating the impact of those challenges on the team, the organization and on the individual team member’s role in the organization. This is the realm of managers.
  4. Help Them See It – This approach is where managers not only communicate the issues, opportunities and impacts to their team members, but ask questions and use innovative communication tools to help the team members truly seethe challenges, help them understand the drivers for the challenge areas, and help them effectively address the challenges and improve. This is the realm of leaders.

Here’s the key – not only is the help them see itapproach the most effective, it’s often the only approach that’s effective at all in helping team members improve and grow.

For example, imagine that a team member’s challenge is that they make regular mistakes in their work. The typical manager approach is to tell them to “make fewer mistakes” or to “be more careful.” While this is clear, it’s not really helpful for most people.

If you want your team members to address challenges and improve, it’s critical that you invest yourself in the process of growth. This requires all of the following:

  • Paying close attention to your team members’ performance, including what they do and what they don’t do.
  • Clearly communicating to each team member what they’re doing well and where they’re failing to meet expectations.
  • Helping them to understand the impact of their performance shortcomings on the team, the organization and perhaps their role in the organization.
  • Helping them understand the underlying reasons for the performance shortcomings, especially if they relate to interpersonal communication or interactions.
  • Offering them practical ideas and tools to improve their performance, along with ongoing support in the form of feedback, observations and questions.

The challenge is that this approach – the only approach of true and effective leadership – requires that you work just as hard at improving yourself (to walk the talk) and that you invest even more time and attention in your team members.

While it may take more time and attention, that’s the role and responsibility of a leader. Are you a leader? If so, then help them see it!

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