Performance evaluations, feedback, criticism and “suggestions for improvement” in people’s performance all serve as ways to separate leaders from followers.
We had a conversation this week about caring (see here) and we keep coming back to the idea when we think about how leaders should encourage their followers’ hearts. Most of the time, people analyze what we do—as either leaders or followers—and then make judgments about our performance. Often this judgment is then equated with a person’s character, wisdom or ethics.
But organizations and institutions can’t—and don’t—care. Only people do. And in order to encourage people to continue to follow, leaders must care about the people that they are leading, enough to guide them through the necessary risks to execute the mission.
Performance evaluations, feedback, “suggestions for improvement,” criticism, and many other forms of feedback are often used as a cover for the vulnerability that really caring about followers requires.
“But what do you do if people aren’t doing the ‘right’ thing and screwing up the process?”
This question is a corporate variation on “How do you tell the truth in grace to someone?” and it’s an excellent one. Here are three ideas:
- Know what you care about as a leader and why—Some leaders care about process more than people. If that’s the case, recognize and praise the process, rather than attempting to recognize and praise the person.
- Be genuine with yourself as a leader—Some leaders struggle with self-awareness. But feedback, criticism and other forms of “improvement” lectures don’t work, and can often be seen as blameing and excuse making. Being genuine with yourself means care about what your role is before caring about your followers’ roles.
- Seek to understand first—Some leaders are self-absorbed, narcissistic and vainglorious. Harsh sounding words, yes, but in a world where genuine recognition of others is the only way to effectively encourage a heartful followership, a leader must seek to understand their followers’ hearts—and care about them.
In the short run, caring about people and building relationships is the only way to go for a leader. Celebration and rituals, combined with the importance of symbols, done with authenticity and heartfelt pride in ones followers, can do more to cement long term growth than any amount of money, service development or process change.
Encouraging the heart requires caring about people and creating long term, value based relationships.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org