Whether you have 1, 10, or 100, collaborators, managing them is one of the most demanding and complex aspects of a boss’s life, especially if you want to be an ethical leader.
The difficulty stems primarily from the fact that every human being is different, and the same message when given to a number of people can cause a variety of reactions: one person may understand what you are driving at, while another is offended; one may remain indifferent, where another person appreciates what you are trying to say… Thus, it is evident just how much commitment is required for ethical leaders to communicate clearly with their team, and the degree of flexibility needed to find the most effective way to lead. But is it really necessary to have a team? I would definitely say ‘yes’.
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Nowadays success is generally based on Teamwork, in an ever more
network-based world, the group is crucial to succeed in your activities:
a store is made up of the faces of its retail staff;
an office of the voices of workers there;
a company succeeds through the cohesion between its staff.
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When you have a winning team you don’t need to apply sophisticated group management techniques, the success itself will keep your team united and motivated … but what do you do when mistakes are made? How should you deal with a collaborator who fails to collaborate? We can tackle difficult situations using the tool of Constructive Criticism. The goal is to build, to help a collaborator grow, to avoid the repetition of the situation that generated the mistake and to strengthen the relationship that binds you.
Here are some tips to help you act this way and to become an ethical leader:
Give criticism in private
Avoid addressing the issue with generalised criticism – addressed to the group as a whole, perhaps in a team meeting as the person concerned will most likely not realise that themessage is directed to him/her; on the other hand, the most insecure or sensitive person in the group may feel unjustly accused.
Furthermore, be careful not to address any criticism to your collaborator in front of colleagues or, even worse, clients. In doing so, you may face two types of reaction: the person reacts aggressively to maintain his or her professionalism and self-esteem, or says nothing at the time, but silently vows that you will pay for this action later. For criticism to be constructive it must be made at a time when you are alone with the person concerned. You might agree together to discuss the issue with the rest of the group if the experience could be useful for everyone.
If you want to be sure that your co-worker knows something, tell him or her! People are sometimes frightened of addressing the issue directly, fearing the reaction of others, and so choose irony or sarcasm, maybe addressing an issue indirectly through other colleagues, hoping that the message will get back to the person concerned. Worse still, some bosses just throw out random comments while thinking to themselves, ‘Well, I’ve made that clear!’ It’s important to remember that being honest does not mean we have to steam-roll our co-workers and crush their self-esteem… we can say all that needs to be said, but put it in the right way. It is the way we say things makes the difference.
Criticise the action not the person
It is one thing to say, ‘you’re incompetent’, while saying ‘this job was not done correctly’ is completely different. In the first case, the person may feel intimidated and therefore react aggressively or feel disheartened and unable to work out a solution. On the other hand, If you discuss the way a task was undertaken, it will be easier for your collaborators to admit the difficulty they encountered, and to encourage the co-operation needed to reach a solution together, while motivating them to commit to pursuing it.
Success in resolving a mistake lies in the ability to deal with it as quickly as possible. For example, let’s imagine you have a new collaborator who arrives a few minutes late; you glance at the clock, get upset but say nothing. The next day he does the same thing, you become more upset and make a sarcastic comment as you pass by your team. After a week of him arriving late, you decide to talk to him but by this time you are really angry and you slam the door yelling, ‘you’re never on time and totally unreliable’…. At which point he will probably reply ‘but you didn’t say anything, I thought a few minutes would be tolerated’. And he would be right, you did not say it, so there’s no point saying, ‘but you should have known better’ or getting even angrier and thus seriously undermining any future collaboration. If on the first occasion you had addressed the issue, the dynamics would have been very different: ‘I noticed that you arrived a few minutes late this morning… I would like you to arrive ten minutes earlier, so we are all ready to welcome our customers at opening time! What do you think?’
Our collaborators are a key part of the success of our workgroup and our business.
Pursuing shared well-being makes the difference between enjoying your job or transforming your work-life into hell.
Moreover, as Nash reminds us, the best result is achieved when each group member works for his/her own good, and for that of the group: our task as ethical leaders is to lead our collaborators toward the goal of shared well being.
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