Keep the “love” in tough love.

17 02 2015

“The topic of leadership is a touchy one.  A lot of leaders fail because they don’t have the bravery to touch that nerve or strike that chord.  Throughout my years, I haven’t had that fear.” ~Kobe Bryant

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” ~William Butler Yeats

Two great quotes telling the same story, and here’s the same story with my spin on it (apologies to those who have already heard it in coaching, etc.).  Tell me, did you ever have a family member that was critical of you?  Have you known someone who points out your frailties?  Maybe a father who picked on you when you got it wrong, but was stingy with his compliments when he saw you were doing well?  Maybe a grandmother who scolded you and told you not to exaggerate when you were doing just that?  I lived both of those situations, and I suspect many of you have similar family stories.

Now, if you’re nodding your head yes, answer a second (and third) question.  Did these people hate you?  Did you hate them?  I’m hoping the answer is no, and maybe even that you’re a little bit shocked right now that I would even suggest that.  Of course my dad doesn’t hate me, even though he gives me a hard time.  Of course my Grandma didn’t just pick at my weaknesses because she liked to see me embarrassed.  They did it because they loved me.  They wanted me to be a better person/leader/son/human than I was acting like in my moments of weakness.  They wanted to help contribute to a life not of mediocrity, but greatness (or at least better-ness J).  Are we all nodding our heads together?  Yes?

Then why do you think your employees will hate you or not respect you when it’s time for some tough love?  Why do some of us avoid confrontation, and “let it slide” when staff SHOULD be called out?  You just want them to be better leaders, right?  As one of my team members told me after I told this story and they went off and confronted a co-worker, “That [tough love] was the best conversation I’ve had in a long time.”

Speaking of striking…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.




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