Leadership Lesson: Breaking Bones

Written by Will Johnston | September 30, 2010 | Proverbs 23 - 25

I’m learning that a gentle correction is often a much wiser choice than a stern rebuke.

A couple of weeks ago I ran into a small issue with one of my team members, someone who is otherwise a bright spot not just on my team but in life in general.  While I was initially pretty frustrated, I decided to take soft approach.

It not only got me kudos from my boss, the person I was trying to work the problem out with actually thanked me as well.

I was able to both address the concern and maintain a good relationship with the team member.

So why did I title this post “Breaking Bones”?  Proverbs 25:15 reads,

With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
     And a soft tongue will break a bone.

Jumping down someone’s throat usually backfires.  Even if you succeed in achieving a short-term goal, which you may or may not, the damage done to the long-term relationship likely has far more downside than the immediate problem solving has upside.

A wise and gentle correction addresses the problem without damaging the person.  Note that I said both “wise” and “gentle.”  Gently correcting doesn’t mean avoiding the problem or merely hinting at it and hoping the person figures it out.  To the contrary, you deal with the problem, but at the same time you affirm the person.

Rather than accusing or saying, “You’re doing this wrong,” tell him what you’d like to see done and why it’s important.  Ask if he knows a way “we” can make that happen.

And always, always, ALWAYS (can I say “always” again?) affirm the person and her work.  Be sure she knows that she’s appreciated and valued.