I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the course of my career. Many of them weren’t that big a deal and ended up being good learning lessons. But some mistakes I made caused a lot of problems for people, and some even came with a fairly significant cost to clean up my mess.
It’s through these mistakes and experiences that I learned and grew both personally and professionally.
Unfortunately, there is one mistake I continue to make over and over again, even though I recognize how serious it is: I hold back from saying what’s on my mind and addressing issues as soon as I see them.
The example I often share is about someone who worked on my team at a former employer.
I noticed this person seemed to be taking long breaks every hour. I’d see her get up, walk around and go outside to smoke on a regular basis. She’d wander around, socialize randomly with people and then head back to her desk. She wasn’t the hardest worker, so this type of activity wasn’t exactly shocking to me.
When I first started noticing her routine, I thought that I might be overreacting. Well, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t address it and it continued. I noticed the frequency increase and other people started to notice and make comments. Shame on me for not handling it sooner. I became more and more frustrated, and that wasn’t healthy.
For some reason, people hold back. We’re all guilty of it. We avoid confrontation and then the problem snowballs, gets bigger and oftentimes turns into a situation that is serious and requires even more direct intervention. If the problem had been addressed sooner, it likely wouldn’t have escalated the way it did.
I am aware of this flaw and have been working on it for years. I have a simple rule I try to follow. When I see something I am concerned about, I address it immediately. That is easier said than done, but I have been making an effort to keep this at the front of my mind. And I still catch myself failing at doing what I know I need to do.
I often wonder what business would be like if everyone said what they were thinking immediately and didn’t hold back. Would businesses be more effective and nimble if the smallest concern was addressed as soon as it was noticed? We’ll likely never know, but I’m pretty confident that the answer is yes.
Candor is a critical part of every manager’s skill set. You have to call it like it is. You have to be open and transparent with people. And that means confronting people and dealing with issues when they arise. It’s not good for you or the people you have concerns with if you don’t speak up.
I’m a big believer that people should always know where they stand. If you have feedback about something someone is doing, it’s important that you tell them. People deserve to know where they stand, and it’s impossible for someone to grow and develop if they don’t know what they need to work on.
But there is another side to this topic: You can’t be constantly critiquing people. There’s definitely a balance. As the saying goes, pick your battles.