Connection before Correction


When I was working on my master’s in education, we were taught that if you can’t control the behavior of your students in the classroom then you can’t teach. At this point, I had been working with children for many years and knew this to be true. I was fortunate to be trained by an amazing professor that leaned into positive (vs. punitive) techniques that would show the students you cared about them yet pushed them to be their best. I remember this professor even saying… these tips work outside of the classroom too! As a Leadership Coach 20 years later, I still use these skills to help leaders with their team.

Connection before correction is imperative to lead people. When people feel connected to you, they will support you, they will listen to you. Good examples of this are in politics, religion, and even fast food. Why do you support a certain candidate? Why do you go that particular place of worship? Why do you go to your favorite spot for coffee or fast food? The answer is quite simple. You feel connected to them, so in turn you support them. The opposite is also true, if you do not feel connected, you will spend your time and money somewhere else. This concept is easy to understand yet so easy to overlook.

Deadlines, chaos, and disruption typically puts leadership in fix-it mode. This mode can start the hamster wheel effect of get it done and lose sight of the ones doing the work. This may have short term wins, but the long-term effects will take its toll. I have watched countless leaders lean into the job and not their people all with negative effects. Once a team member realizes that leadership is only interested in the outcome, they will eventually feel undervalued and frustrated.

So how do you connect with your team? Here are 3 tips that are simple and effective:
  1. Observation – Watch your team. Take time to see what is going right and make sure to tell them the good stuff!
  2. Communication – As Brene Brown states in her Dare to Lead book, clear is kind and unclear is unkind. Use clear and concise words to let your team know what you need from them.
  3. Care – Do you genuinely care about your team? Take 5 minutes before or after a meeting to connect with your teammates. Find areas where you share common ground and connect through whatever is that links you.

Now that you are connected with your team, let’s talk about correction. Using one the examples above let’s go back to your favorite coffee shop. You are greeted warmly by your barista, you place your order, and then proceed to talk the news of the day – one of which was their flat tire this a.m. on the way to work. You begin to leave when you realize that you received the wrong order. You have two options – walk out and let it go or return to the counter and have the barista fix the order. What do you choose? At work, you get to decide what issues you want to tackle and which ones you do not. Because you have connected with your team, you will know the right time to extend grace and the right time to tackle the issue at hand. Because you have a relationship with the team member you will know how to best talk to the team member to be understood and heard.

Now take the same 3 tips above and apply it when correction is needed – but only after connection has happened:
  1. Observation – Take time to understand the whole picture of the correction needed. Is your teammate just having a bad day? Is this a repetitive problem? Is this problem within their control? Getting a clear picture will help you hone in on what really needs to be corrected.
  2. Communication – Ask as many clarifying questions as possible to understand the situation. Use the clear is kind principle mentioned above. State what is expected and make sure your teammate understands what is expected of them.
  3. Care – Take actions that reflect the needs the person in front of you. One size does not fit all, so make sure that the correction is attainable for that person. Always make time to reconnect to the goal and support the person in the best way you can.

Correction is necessary, but connection will make it much easier to continue to build your team.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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