Each Friday, I respond to a question submitted by a leader. The series is called Today's Challenge. This week's question comes from a recent event in Birmingham: How do you tell someone they are not a leader – without crushing them?
I have several ideas that may help with this question, but first, I want to relieve you of the anxiety you may be feeling regarding how someone will receive truth. You cannot control, nor should you assume responsibility for, their response. Your role is to share truth in love. They choose their response.
With that backdrop, I have four suggestions…
Always show honor, dignity and respect. Choose your words carefully. Try not to inflame the situation with trigger words or exaggeration. Even if the person cannot lead, they still possess immense value as a human being. Being in the wrong role does not diminish a person’s value. Treat them accordingly.
Ask thoughtful questions. Find out what they believe about their leadership quotient. You may be surprised. They may already be aware of their leadership gaps. It’s also possible they have huge blind spots. If they do believe they are leading well, ask them for their definition of leadership. Ask them to give you examples in which they feel they’ve lead well.
Pinpoint the issues and concerns. After you know where they stand on the issue, be prepared to share your point-of-view. Be specific - vague statements such as, “You just can’t lead,” are not helpful. If you have a clear point-of-view on leadership, it’s much easier to pinpoint your concerns. Is the predominant issue a skill gap or have you detected issues regarding their leadership character? Both can be addressed, however, the action plans are very different.
Tell the truth. Your integrity is on the line in this conversation. Don’t sugarcoat the truth – that’s just another form of dishonesty. When we choose not to tell the truth, we ultimately hurt the person, the organization and our own leadership. If a person is on the wrong career path, you do him or her a great service by redirecting them. Truth is a leader’s best friend.
What’s next after a conversation like this? You get to decide. Your next steps will be affected by how far along you are on this journey. Is this the first time you’ve discussed the issue with this person? Is it the third time? If you’re early in the dialogue, you may want to help the person build a development plan to close the leadership gap. If you’re late in the game, you may need to talk about a transition plan.[GLS_Shield]