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Hard Feedback Is The Most Generous Act Of Leadership

Nov. 10, 2015 Forbes

Whether it’s between colleagues, leaders and their employees, or even at home, we’re all eventually faced with hard conversations. Most of us would admit if someone had important information that could help us be better leaders, friends, professionals, or parents, we’d want to hear it no matter how painful. But given the opportunity to deliver hard truths to someone important to us, that’s a different story. It’s not hard to see why most people shy away. But being brave enough to speak up pays dividends for your whole organization.

Why we’d rather not

  • We fear causing bad feelings – None of us like feeling the tension of estranged relationships, so we avoid them at all cost. We rationalize withholding hard information as not wanting to hurt others’ feelings. We minimize the impact of bad behavior. “They didn’t mean it,” “they’re under a lot of stress,” “It’s not my place to tell them how to do their job.” But withholding information that could lead to another’s transformation isn’t kind, it’s cruel and selfish, no matter how difficult it may be to do.
  • We fear others’ defensiveness – We’ve seen others react when they get hard messages.   They erupt in angry defensiveness and sometimes shoot the messenger.   If they are someone in authority, we fear such reactions that much more. Feeing anxious about such perceived risk is understandable. Sometimes fighting for someone means fighting with them, and trusting that you, and the relationship, can withstand the heat, and even grow stronger as a result.
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