A new supervisor was reluctant to be too direct with her employee for fear of coming across as too harsh. No one likes to be the bad guy!

I encourage a reframing of the mindset from “harsh to “clear”. It isn’t being too harsh when you provide clear parameters and expectations. It is a gift, not a punishment when you communicate what behaviors are positive and which ones are lacking (and why). It is helpful rather than detrimental when there are clear timelines and metrics about performance.

A lack of clarity doesn’t make the employee your friend; it makes them confused and out of alignment with what you need them to provide. And while it is oh-so-tempting to start off by trying to be “nice” as a supervisor, all your ambiguity does is muddy the water about your expectations.

I am reminded of my favorite Marcus Buckingham quote that I have shared before but it never grows old:

Effective leaders don’t have to be charming or brilliant
What they must be is clear.
CLARITY is the essence of great leadership.
Show us who we should seek to serve,
Show us where our core strength lays,
Show us which score we should focus on
And which actions we must take,
And we will reward you by working our hearts out
To make our better future come true.

Remember that it is so much easier to keep the water clear than to make a futile attempt to remove the mud from it.

 Source: The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham, 2005.

The Big Muddy (aka Mississippi River)

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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