Leaders don’t “pile it on”
When I was in kindergarden, we lived beside the elementary school playground in Pittsburgh, Texas. One of our friends from church, Benji* was on the team 7th grade football team. My brother and I used to like to watch practice. One day, realizing that he had a cheering squad, Benji* went out of his way to show off. The first chance he got, he jumped on top of the pile at the end of a play. And spent the rest of practice doing laps. That was the last time we attended practice.
“Piling on” isn’t fun or useful, but it is tempting. Someone is the target of frustration or irritation and the easy answer is to “pile it on.”
Leaders ask questions before they jump on top of the pile.
I’ve had two situations in my career where things were going really poorly on the personal front. At that moment, a well-intentioned leader decided to challenge me on an issue. As I fellow leader, I recognize he has that right. Both times though, my inner feeling was one of having one more thing “piled on.” This was not the “feather that broke the camel’s back” but rather a 10 pound brick that crushed the camel. Suck it up, Charles. I did.
Looking back, I wish both critiques had begun with questions rather than statements. “Did you know…?” or “Can you explain…?” would have given opportunity for those leaders to bring about the correction and guidance they were trying to give to me without beginning by adding insult to injury. Both times they were right, but both times I was already aware of the issue. I just didn’t know the way forward, and that’s what I needed their leadership.
Leaders do not always have the time to make sure they know the whole context before issuing directives. But if you are going to “lower the boom,” make sure the person isn’t already on the ground. And certainly make sure you have a solution, not just an observation. That’s leadership.
Have you ever had someone “lower the boom” on you? Did it help?