Leadership is more of an art than a science. While there may be many laws, principles, techniques needed to lead, their is a fluidity about when and how you use each technique. That flow is what requires leaders to employ creativity and a mixing of the elements. There is a flow between confidence and humility, giving feedback and being empathetic, listening intently and holding people accountable. Just like the art in a museum, leaders work with a variety of texture, color, and depth.
Our digital age is designed to give us continual feedback: the dryer buzzes when the clothes are fully dry; the phone bings when an email hits our inbox; the car dashboard chimes when we need to stop for gas. We are constantly receiving feedback or, at least, the feedback is available to us. This kind of feedback — the kind that does not take into account what else is going on with us — is easy to ignore. Necessary feedback is only as valuable as the empathy that accompanies it.
Tom Landry, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear and has you see what you don’t want to see, so that you can be who you’ve always known you can be.” If we’re never told what’s expected of us, we won’t accomplish the task. If we misunderstand an instruction and proceed anyway, we need re-direction. Feedback is essential and it’s priceless when it’s pushing us to become more. We all need to know what we are doing well, what we are not doing well, and how to improve. Feedback can relieve stress, improve relationships, and promote trust, as long as it’s given from a place of empathy.
Giving feedback involves describing the specific behavior that needs correction; explaining the behavior’s effect; listening from a place of empathy; asking for a change in behavior; reaffirming the person’s ability to make the change; ending on a positive note; and following up later. Listening with empathy requires tuning into what is being said through body language, tone, and facial expressions, not just words— understanding the bigger picture. Empathy means being fully present, calling people by name, smiling, encouraging, and showing genuine interest. When feedback is mixed with empathy, it can be fully received. Empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger the more we use it.
Whatever feedback we give this week, remember we get robotic feedback (buzzs, bings, chimes) all the time that we ignore. Balancing our feedback with empathy is an art form.