08 Feb “Men Are Cowards”

So said a well-respected former CFO when asked about what ails business today. The former CFO and I were discussing the common challenges in business, and I had mentioned that if I had to convey only one thing about leadership, it would be on how to coach. These days, it might be called, “difficult conversations” or “handling conflict.” I went on to comment that there aren’t often consequences for the “right” behavior, or the “wrong” behavior. The CFO mentioned that many times in her career she was cleaning up messes where others didn’t have the courage to call balls and strikes.

Part of the reason there aren’t consequences is that expectations aren’t clear from the outset, but often it’s because we fail to recognize that all of us actually do need praise and recognition for good work. The Gallup organization found that keeping employees engaged requires praise and recognition weekly. The attitude, “Why should I praise people for doing their job?” can usually be found in an organization where turnover is high.   On the flip side, there needs to be consequences for the wrong behavior. This doesn’t mean someone immediately goes on a Performance Improvement Plan, and is terminated within 90 days.   Consequences can mean that someone is actually told they’re not meeting expectations in a coaching session. No one likes to hear they’re not cutting it, but how would you expect behavior to change if there isn’t first a conversation?

In “Coaching for Improved Work Performance” by Ferdinand F. Fournies, the author outlined a straightforward, five-step process for most coaching opportunities, and these can be adapted to coaching in a variety of environments. The five steps are especially helpful when feedback requires managing poor performance or disruptive and negative people:

  1. Get agreement from the person you’re coaching that a problem exists. This is the hardest and most time- consuming part because you’re asking someone who may not have high self-awareness to focus on how his or her behavior affects others and how those behaviors take away from the team’s ability to deliver necessary results. Getting agreement that a problem exists is also important because if you can’t get agreement, you cannot move forward with other steps.
  2. Once you have agreement on the problem area, mutually discuss alternative solutions. You will get the best results if the person being coached has a lot of say-so in the solution – the “how” he or she will improve. This is also where you will see commitment to change.
  3. Mutually agree on the action to be taken to solve the problem, and be clear that you both have the same expectations for what will occur – i.e., what will change, when, and how will that change be measured.
  4. Follow-up to measure results. You can’t expect what you don’t inspect. To measure is to manage.
  5. Recognize any achievement when it occurs, and most importantly, catch people doing things right!

So are men cowards? I certainly don’t think it’s related to gender, but I do believe the cornerstone of leadership is courage.

The courage to act.

The courage to try.

The courage to embrace adversity.

The courage to dream big.

The courage to persevere.

Whether you be man or woman you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. –James Allen


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