If I say “awkward,” what’s the first thing you think of? A first date? A painful social interaction? What about a job interview or a work conversation?
You figured once you “arrived” into management, your days of awkward conversations were coming to an end, right? Welp, if you haven’t figured out already this is not the case, you will soon…
You know what? I hope you embrace it! Yes, that’s right! Embrace awkwardness in leadership. It is a challenge, for sure – but it will allow you to build your own leadership capability, and demonstrate true firmness as a leader (a very important attribute).
Why? Because leadership is not comfortable.
You will need to acknowledge awkward conversations, prepare for them, and tackle them head on. One of the most damaging thing to credibility and trust, as you manage your team, is to always take the easy way out. To always say or do what makes things comfortable. It’s the wrong way to go. “Management awkwardness” is potentially a very important way for you to gain ground as a leader.
Let’s play out “management awkwardness” in a few different scenarios:
Scenario 1: giving employee important coaching/feedback on some points of improvement. He immediately starts arguing – making excuses, blaming, or (worst of all) pointing our your flaws and shortcomings as a leader. What do you do?
Natural response: you ‘hedge your bet,’ either softening the feedback message, adding in some positive elements, or even retreating altogether.
Correct response: wait. Endure the awkward silence, but hold fast to your previous comments (which, I’m going to assume, were substantive, fair and objective). Don’t back off. Instead, listen to understand what makes them feel this way, then request to continue the discussion at a later date. Don’t ‘keep trying’ to get your point across; they aren’t listening anyway by that point.
Scenario 2: all-star employee, high performer asks to meet with you to discuss career development. He/she expresses concern at not knowing what his/her direction and future will be with the company. What do you do? Continue reading