They Don't Always Like Me

Another “grey leadership” example…

This week I had to say some tough stuff to our leadership team.  I don’t usually “bring the hammer down” with our staff, but this week was one of those weeks when I felt like there was no better way to address my concerns than to say some tough things.

I’m a firm believer in the axiom “what gets rewarded gets repeated” and I would submit that as much as 90% of the time this IS the best way to lead and motivate your team, however I also believe that there are moments – that 10% – when a tough reprimand is in order.  That’s what makes this such a “grey leadership” issue.  When do you know you’re in the 10%?  Who’s to say your not just having a bad day?  Maybe the issue or concern is not that dramatic?

Here’s how I process to determine whether it’s 10% time:

  • Journal my frustration/the issue
  • Talk it through with my husband or my boss
  • Talk it through out loud so that I can hear how I sound delivering the reprimand
  • Pray – pray for discernment, wisdom, patience and direction
  • Then, if I still feel as frustrated/concerned/passionate, it’s most likely time to say it

And let me just say, I HATE IT!  I absolutely agonize over those times when I have to look my team in the eye and say some tough stuff.  I hate that when we walk out of that room, they probably are not really happy with me.  I hate that sometimes I have to be ok with that.  They will not always like what I have to say, but it’s my responsibility to lead and motivate our team effectively… and sometimes that means saying the tough stuff.  It’s just part of leadership.

How do you deal with saying the tough stuff?

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  • Andy Borgmann February 25, 2009  

    It’s one of the toughest things about leadership. I probably side too strongly on the “I don’t care if you like me” side, but I find that sometimes things need to be said and if someone doesn’t say them, no one will out of fear of “not being liked.”

    Your steps seem like a good one and something for to incorporate in my own leadership. Thanks for them!

  • Kevin Scott February 26, 2009  

    I find it helpful to also ask myself how I might have contributed to the problem or neglected to contribute to the solution.

    In my experience, leadership issues are often as much about the leader (me) as they are about the team.

    Then, when you own up to your part to the team, it makes the bitter pill easier to swallow.

  • Jenni Catron February 26, 2009  

    @Kevin – GREAT, GREAT point. This is another post in itself.

  • Ron Edmondson February 26, 2009  

    Jenni, 10%? That’s all?

    Seriously, I totally agree with this. I am actually working on a post about when a public rebuke is in order. Sometimes the team needs to hear the hard stuff. I agree with Kevin, sometimes I do.

    Either way, leaders are called to lead, even when it’s unpopular. (I actually did post about that this week.)

    The good news for me is that I probably don’t hate it it as much as you do! (J/k…sorta)

  • Rindy Walton February 26, 2009  

    I think the last 10% is dependent on the other 90% that happens every day. Trust is built, vision and expectation are clear, honesty is valued, so that when the 10% is needed, it’s more accepted. Hopefully, by that point, everyone really already knows it–it just takes the leader to say it.

  • Dad February 26, 2009  

    Some very good points have been made. I always found that if I have done my best in the leadership role and am will to except some of the blame the team already knew the hammer was coming. You build trust and respect during the 90%, the 10% simple shows you are capable of taking the next step. Jenni, you have very good judgement, you process the situation and when you use that 10% it is because it is needed.

  • Linnae Hoppe February 26, 2009  

    Man, I totally hear ya. I don’t say the tough stuff b/c I get so fearful. This job is teaching me how to do that already, so I am being stretched way more than I thought in this area. There are many times and will be many times where I have to step in and be the “bad guy” for our ministry. I will most definitely be using your method as my means of confrontation. Thank you!

  • Michael Buckingham February 26, 2009  

    Great post…I see it so often in christian creative circles…”nice job” when it is mediocre at best, as if being sugary and smiley – though dishonest – is the standard.

    Nice filters you’ve built in.

    I feel that we are at a point where it’s time to be honest, time to use some tough words and give some tough truths…that will make us better.

  • Susan Hughes February 26, 2009  

    Glad to hear that others don’t like it. Too many times I’ve made the mistake of NOT saying something & it came back to bite me. Better to get it over with than have to deal with those consequences of not saying anything. We have to remember why we do it too – to make the team better, for HIS kingdom. I would my team to do the same for me. Thanks for sharing your process – that’s helpful.

  • Pam February 26, 2009  

    Wow. Had the same kind of week. At the end, I gained respect and all was well.

  • cmaadams February 26, 2009  

    Great post! These conversations are tough for me too. A wise person once told me that most people fail for one of three reasons: 1. Character, 2. Bad fit, 3. Poorly managed. Two of the three are management’s fault.

    It’s always tough but sometimes the toughest part is evaluating my side of letting the wrongful behavior take place.

  • michelle2005 February 28, 2009  

    Jenny I have not visited your site in quite a while. Yet, am so glad that I did today!

    Being the one that has to say the ‘tough things’ is never easy. You asked the question, how do we deal with asking the tough things.

    Personally, I make sure I always pray regarding the issue FIRST. I don’t want any of “me” in there, but only desire the Lord to show through. I can honestly say that being willing to be His Hands extended in this way has BOTH figuratively and literally saved my life on more than one occasion. Thankfully, the Lord extends to us His MERCY rather than justice.

    I’d much rather obey God than man…I learned this lesson the hard way (several years ago) and would never want to repeat this same mistake.

    In His Hand,


  • Pete Wilson February 28, 2009  

    I think you do it well. Very well actually. Proof that your process is working!

  • jan owen March 1, 2009  

    i really am not good at it. i hem and haw and tend to – as you say – agonize. But I try to be faithful to speak needed truth when we all need to hear it. But I don’t like it either…..