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When a leader's authenticity is put to the test.

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

Navigating the feedback jungle.

It's not surprising leaders find their authenticity compromised in certain conversations, particularly when they relate to conflict or performance issues. Other types of workplace conversations leaders have parallel struggles with, range from pay rises, scenarios misaligning with their values, senior management behaviour, situations with legal ramifications, personality clashes or managing someone with a fixed mindset.

When we discussed this with senior leaders from both the private and public sector, this was what they had to say on the issue.

Be present and mindful of how you show up – BE in the moment.

Check the environment is right, this not only includes the setting, time needed and time of day, it’s also taking into consideration what else may be happening that could influence the conversation or skew perspectives.

Don’t quell your empathy and avoid being caught up in the amiability of the person. Skirting around it wont aid you either, so get to the point. And if you’ve been advised to sandwich a message, now would be a good time to recall that advice!

Instead, these senior managers suggest you step into empathy by inviting others to share their thoughts and feelings and consider sharing how you feel about the situation as well. Give feedback that is constructive, also presenting positive news where appropriate. Be mindful of your tone, eye contact and body language, relax your posture and if you’re struggling, we recommend our heart focused breathing technique;

slow breath in 1,2,3,4,5, the same rhythm out, and imagine you are breathing in through your heart, and back out through your heart. It’s a scientifically proven technique to activate calm on the go and get coherent.

And whilst you're being mindful of how you show up, take the opportunity to listen for the unspoken and exercise EQ!

Stay with facts and have the conversations early on if your needing to raise a concern. If your organisation has policies and procedures, use these resources to guide you and at the heart of these conversations, ensure you have good intentions for the person, the team and the organisation.

You may get derailed by behaviours that deflect, defend, deny, divert or responses that are aggressive, emotional or nebulous. When this happens, these leaders advise you wait, stay silent if you must, ask again or ask another open question, try rephrasing, reschedule or just listen, and our favourite 3Rs of refocusing to redirect and reframe the moment.

Link your feedback to intention – to connect, cultivate cohesion, energise, motivate, share vision, create alignment or have a bit of fun, create reassurance, clarity or accountability. Use feedback to reward effort and as a way to reflect. You can also normalise feedback as a way of building better relationships with each other, so invest the time to get it right.

Feedback is an investment in confidence, it builds belief and trust, empowers, supports and aids equality. It sets standards.

It’s easier to have these conversations when you are being your authentic self. So anchor to hope and be a role model for your team.


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