A key attribute of a high performing organization is a team of leaders that don’t want to let each other down. When something doesn’t go as planned, high performers are usually harder on themselves than any reprimand they would receive. They don’t want to let us down and when they do, they feel it instantly – before a word or look is shared.
I feel the same way about my performance. I’m often brought into situations where there are either significant opportunities, or to the contrary, significant problems. People count on me to do a good job, and I don’t want to let them down. This is a motivator for me, and I think it is for others, too.
Here are five steps to consider when you need to communicate an “opportunity” with a team member:
- Assume good intent.
Mistakes are never intentional – obviously people don’t screw up on purpose. Before you say anything, focus on the track record and character of the individual. “You should’ve known better” or “I told you so” may naturally come to mind, but there is no place for them in conversations. If you’ve done your job right, they already get it.
- Acknowledge it as a one-off event.
Start with the concept that this is not a recurring issue. If it is, you’re not communicating to a high performer. Recognize that the person probably has already reprimanded themselves and is on the way toward resolution. It is important, however, to acknowledge you’re in the know.
- Provide professional correction.
I often refer to this as a “one minute reprimand.” Moments like these provide valuable coaching. I affirm that they will ultimately orchestrate the solution like they typically do. Then I discuss lessons learned and clear expectations moving forward. Check in regularly to ensure a resolution has been reached.
- Help them let it go.
In my experience, high performers can overthink their mistakes – sometimes for too long. As leaders, we need to help them gain a bigger perspective and move on. We don’t want people to be afraid to make decisions.
- Reconfirm the relationship.
I often wrap up a situation by saying “We’re good.” Sometimes, I add “We don’t need to talk about it anymore” to let them know that I am not concerned about it. You can then move forward in support of the person. Don’t look back.
Mistakes can be costly – and not just financially. But if you have a high performing team, accountability should already be part of the equation. Good people know what’s on the line and want to perform. Nobody has to tell an NFL kicker when he misses the extra point that he made a mistake. They’re professionals – they get it.