“Real love doesn’t come from coddling. It comes from helping. And oftentimes the best way to help someone – and help your company – is by being brutally honest.”
If you look at real leaders in AEC firms across the land, you’ll find they often share one characteristic. They are known for giving straight feedback to the people who work for them.
I know it isn’t always easy or fun. No one wants to be known as a jerk, and most of us want to be loved by everyone. It certainly is a criticism that has been leveled at me more than once. But the fact is, real love doesn’t come from coddling. It comes from helping. And oftentimes the best way to help someone – and help your company – is by being brutally honest. There just isn’t any time to waste. Corrections have to be made. Behavior has to change. And while not everyone enjoys hearing bad news straight-up, your best people appreciate it because they understand your motivation behind it – that you want to help them to succeed.
Human resources management, as a function, oftentimes forgets whose side they are on. They should be on the side of the company. When they get confused they start thinking their job is to protect the employees from inherently evil, bad, or mean management. When HR is doing their job, that means doing what is best for the business. And that may mean management will be delivering negative feedback, unfiltered when necessary.
I know our culture today has gotten off-track. Everyone “gets a trophy” these days just for showing up. Maybe they get a trophy just for signing up even if they don’t show up. It makes it hard for those people to deal with negative feedback. Yet, if everything is so sugar-coated that the message is lost, we are hurting the development of our people.
The language commonly used in business today – terms such as “right-sizing” for laying people off, or “optics of the situation” when we talk about how someone’s behavior is affecting other employees – only obfuscates what we really need to be saying to people.
Being clear and direct – THAT is how you can get the real respect of your people – and that is how you can best educate your people and effect change in your company. How do you stack up here? Are you doing what’s necessary and difficult, or are you dodging the problem and kicking the can down the road for another day? If you do the latter, someday the end of the street will be full of cans, and you’ll know exactly why.
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.