Difficult Conversations or Constructive Criticism

Over the 31 years that I was either a supervisor or manager/administrator…one of the most challenging tasks that I faced was the difficult conversations that ensued regarding poor job performance.

You may think that leaders relish these necessary duties…but that has not been my experience.

I lost count, many years ago, of the supervisors and managers who came to me to discus the poor job performance of a member of their staff, yet when I read their annual evaluation of the person that they discussed with me…it was glowing.

A custodial crew supervisor told me that he hated supervising people…but that he needed the money.

On a regular basis, when I first became a foreman who’s job was to manage several custodial crew supervisors, a supervisor would tell me that they were going to terminate one of their student worker staff for poor job performance.  My first question to the supervisor would be if they had throughly trained the poor performing student?  Often the reply would be that they had not but that they had either, verbally told them what to do or asked one of their full time Building Service Workers to train them.

One of the foreman, who was a member of my immediate staff, told Mary Jane that at times she had experienced discussions with me and did not realize until she departed and thought about the exchange…’that she had just got her ass chewed.’

Now, that is plain talk and was not my purpose…but it was a discussion regarding a kernel of constructive criticism.

Each of us has feelings of self worth.  We want to be of value to the organization and its mission.  We hope that our supervisor understands our efforts.

It has always been my habit to, ‘sandwich’, my difficult conversations between two slices of sincere compliments.

Also, always, praise in public and constructive criticism…only in private.

If a member of your staff does something well…go up to the highest mountain and shout it until the echos reverberate!

When someone makes a mistake, and who among us has not, speak to them behind closed doors…and do not talk about what you said to anyone else.

When I sat before University Leaders and felt that, due to my position of advocacy, I was compelled to engage in difficult conversation…I did so with great humility and some trepidation.

The Chancellors and Presidents that I had the privilege of speaking with had all power…and I had no more than the power of persuasion.

When speaking with a leader…I first had at the forefront of my mind…all that I admired about them and their leadership…and I disclosed these, genuine, thoughts to them on a regular basis.

I then, had in mind the poor and humble and wonderful people that were counting on me to be their, honest, advocate…and to not hurt them or the leaders opinion of them…but to deliver their concerns to someone who had a compassionate heart.

I never made a person an offender for a word…lest in the ‘kingdom of the blind, the man with one eye is king.’

Empathy was always the most valuable emotion that I had…and I never seemed to run out of it.

I understand anger…because I have been angry.

I understand a misplaced word…because I have misplaced more than one.

I understand challenges…because I have been challenged.

I understand being hurt and afraid and being is sorrow and despair….because I have been there.

‘I really do not care how much you know…until I know how much you care…about me.’     Zig Ziglar

‘We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea…and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.’   G.K. Chesterton

3 responses

  1. Because you have experienced, you do not treat your subordinates the same way you were treated. Instead you coached with patience, humility and respect. If only all bosses or supervisors are like you, that bowl of “rice” is then much easier to earn. You are a good person BJ. 👍😄

    1. You are too kind, my friend. 🌞

  2. […] Source: Difficult Conversations or Constructive Criticism […]

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