I worked with a business recently where the employees would dread it when the owner of the business came into their premises after a few days off because they would always notice the one thing done poorly rather than the 99 things done well. New staff would try really hard to please him, but after a few weeks of being criticized harshly they would become negative and resentful and usually stop trying to please. Morale was always low and staff turnover was high.
In any organisation or business when someone begins in a role or is learning a new task they will make mistakes and often not know what to do. Some leaders/managers feel that it is necessary to focus on and jump on mistakes, as if that it is the best way to help staff improve.
In his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie helped us understand that people respond far better to encouragement than they do to criticism. He showed that you never grow a positive relationship by criticizing people.
As a leader/manager if you focus on the things team members do wrong and continually point those things out to them, it makes them feel insecure and any relationship between you will struggle to be positive. In many cases they will feel picked on and develop a negative attitude towards you as leader. Even worse, they may begin to doubt their capacity to perform their role.
However, if you focus on what people are doing well and encourage them they feel supported and your relationship with them will be more likely to grow. Interestingly if they feel encouraged by you, they are more easily able to receive instruction from you and to ask you for assistance when they don’t know something.
So, as a leader/manager, it is not that you cannot point out errors and instruct staff to learn. It is the way you do it! A negative remark said in an unkind tone to correct someone, makes the recipient feel bad. They feel as if no-one before them has ever made such a stupid mistake. This will have the effect of discouragement and undermining any positive attitude towards learning their new role.
As leader/manager your role is to:
- Set the tone of team relationships
- Take an interest in each employee to know their strengths, passion and interests
- Ensure that training and especially correction is given in as encouraging way as possible.
As a leader I always found it helpful to assume that people want to be helpful. Even when they make thoughtless mistakes I tried hard not to become frustrated but would aim to use the opportunity to help them learn and grow.
If a leader is cranky and short tempered and intolerant of people’s mistakes then everyone will be on edge and no-one will be very happy to be serving. If the leader is positive and has an encouraging manner then 95% of people respond well and will become a helpful part of the team.
What type of leader are you?