GL Ford Consulting

Managerial Courage

Most employee attitude and leadership skill surveys have items about how employees feel about the amount, timeliness and quality of feedback they're getting and how they feel about their supervisor's interest in their development, training, and careers. These items are usually rated low. In our work with scores of companies participating in 360° leadership feedback we find that encouraging and accepting constructive criticism, giving consistently fair performance feedback, dealing effectively with performance problems and giving developmental performance feedback in a timely manner are consistently among the manager's lowest scoring items. 

What serves the organization, managers and employees best? Most managers and employees know the answer. It's telling the truth. It's being open, honest, direct and timely. Employees deserve the truth so they can work on their issues and problems, have more control over what happens to them, and plan their destinies. Employees deserve to know where they stand. 

Too often managers delude themselves by thinking that smoothing over negative data or delaying bad news will help the employee who's having problems. It's just not true. Telling the truth is the most benevolent course. The truth allows employees to make choices and take action. They can choose to correct their flaws, ask for help, or move to other jobs that fit them better. They can choose to leave the organization. They can have reasonable control over what happens to them. The earlier people know, the greater the chance they can do something about their problems. 

Here's the bottom line. It is a prime responsibility of each manager to have the managerial courage to step up to the plate and tell the truth, to call performance and potential as they really see it, to give constructive and accurate feedback on a timely basis. Only honest evaluation, compassionately delivered, helps employees and the organization. Managerial courage requires differentiating between the most and the least. It requires the full truth and nothing but the truth.* 

*Adapted from The Leadership Challenge, Fall 2003

“According to the American Management Association, managers spend at least 24 percent of their time resolving conflicts at work.”
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