Okay, I’ve taken your gritty sisters to task (“Would it kill you to say thank you?”). Now it’s your turn, grace-sters. It’s Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I love remembering all the things I’m grateful for. It makes me happy and I find it very motivating to take stock of what’s positive in my life.
I know a lot of women leaders who lead by praise, by freely giving thanks to those around them. They know the motivational power that helping someone feel worthy and valued can have. Used judiciously, giving thanks can be an amazing tool for elevating performance and morale. And it can be overdone.
I’m thinking of the leadership equivalent of a “Proud Parent of a Fairfield Kindergartner” bumper sticker. As if the mere fact of a child’s attendance at school is cause for celebration. Some leaders who like to give and get praise can manage like this. Praise for everything. Praise every day. They’ll find something – anything – to praise, even in the poorest work product. It’s what I call the “Thank you for breathing” mode of management. It’s well-meant. But what’s the actual result…on outcomes? on relationships? on morale?
Leaders on the grace side of the spectrum can tend to shy way from the tough stuff: the hard conversations, the unvarnished critiques. But this has huge risks. It can breed complacency, erode morale and stifle development. The longer a problem goes unaddressed, the more it weighs down the team. Confronting the problem is going to be uncomfortable whenever you do it, so why wait?
Often the kindest act is to address a problem swiftly and sharply. Balanced with your naturally appreciative nature, a well-delivered and direct critique can have a remarkably positive impact. Between now and the end of the year, consider challenging yourself to confront things head-on, and to do so within a specified time limit.