Disappointment is inevitable for leaders. At times your people will disappoint you, and there will also be instances where you disappoint others. So the fact that disappointment occurs isn’t the challenge. The real issue to address is how you respond to the disappointment.
Unfortunately, far too many leaders react to disappointment with anger and punishment. You’ve likely seen the scenario: An employee loses a key client, misses an important deadline, or does any number of common things and the leader responds by demoting the employee, taking away responsibility, not allowing the employee to take vacation time, firing the employee, or taking other punitive actions.
Such consequences are really nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the leader–and a missed opportunity for the leader to shine. In reality, how you handle disappointment speaks volumes of your leadership style and your credibility in your organization.
To make the most of a disappointing situation and use it as the coaching opportunity it is, consider the following suggestions:
Manage yourself before you confront the employee.
Before talking with the employee about the disappointing situation, you first have to manage yourself. In other words, you have to be clear on what your intention is in the conversation. Because you’re in a position of authority, what you say during these moments will have a ripple effect. Of course, this isn’t to say that you aren’t justified in your anger or disappointment. You most certainly are. However, your expression of those feelings has an impact on how others view you and on what the employee will do in the future. So before initiating the conversation, take some time to step back and get clear about what you want to have happen as a result of the meeting.
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