In Kim Scott’s book, “Radical Candor”, she states the following:
In an effort to create a positive, stress-free environment, I sidestepped the difficult but necessary part of being a boss: telling people clearly and directly when their work wasn’t good enough. I failed to create a climate in which people who weren’t getting the job done were told so in time to fix it.
Later, she follows with:
As you probably know, for every piece of subpar work you accept, for every missed deadline you let slip, you begin to feel resentment and then anger. You no longer just think the work is bad: you think the person is bad. This makes it harder to have an even-keeled conversation. You start to avoid talking to the person at all.
In all of the talk about “being a leader”, or “don’t be a manager!”, sometimes we forget that it is important to simply be a boss. It is not all awesome, and sometimes you have to do some tough things in a position of leadership. If someone is performing in a way that is not helping them move forward, saying something and being honest with them is not a sign of disliking them; in fact, it is the opposite. It is because you care. I do not believe any educator or student wakes up in the morning wanting to do poorly, yet sometimes to spare their feelings, we let them continue on a path that may be detrimental.
People sometimes do not like hearing those truths, but you do not want to get into a situation where it is too late and they say, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
Personally, I am against the “positive sandwich”; we say one positive thing, follow it up with our criticism, and then end with a positive. When this was happening to me, I would simply say, “Tell me what you need me to fix.” I could care less about the positives at the beginning. A sandwich is named by the filling in the middle, so if it is “crap”, the delicious bread on the outside ain’t helping. I prefer being direct and to the point while ensuring that people know you are guiding them out of a place of caring and putting them in a place where they can be successful, not allowing the opposite.
I remember working with a student teacher and they weren’t up to the level of what I had expected. No one had said anything prior, but I could not put my name on an evaluation and say they did a good job going on the path they were headed. We had a tough conversation, they were upset, I gave them guidance on how they could get better, and they were so proud of how far they had come, that they were thankful I stepped in. Imagine if I would have waited until the evaluation? There is not much coming back from that.
As long as people know that you are both on the same page (that you want them to be successful), they will accept the feedback. For some, it is harder than others, but when they know it is because you want them to be better, it is a much easier pill to swallow. Leadership is not always an easy position, but the most effective leaders are willing to do the stuff that others are scared to do, for the sake of helping all the people they serve in their organization.