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Tactfully Delivering The Truth and Balancing Praise, pages 271-280

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 4. Communication F. Tactfully Delivering The Truth, G. Balancing Praise (pages 271-280)


F. Tactfully Delivering The Truth

“When delivering criticism, it is important to do it with consideration and delicacy.” When criticism is directly given it can be ineffective as the person receiving it normally becomes defensive. So, an indirect approach is more helpful. This is a two-step process. First, you must care about your subordinates. When they know you care, criticism is easier to handle. Second, you must take ownership of the issue. When providing feedback, include yourself as support. Instead of saying “You failed”, say “What could I have done to help you succeed”. It important that you believe in this type of technique as taking ownership is the whole point. Are there any times when the leader is not at fault when the team fails? The answer is no. “If a team is not performing, then it is the leader’s fault.” “The idea of ownership is real, and when utilized correctly, the concept of ownership will spread.” However, when situations occur when indirect criticism is not effective, a more direct approach is warranted.


Providing negative feedback is difficult. No one wants to hear they have done a bad job. However, as an educational administrator, it’s part of your job. I often tell my principals that you don’t make the big money for the easy conversations, you make it for the hard ones. Teaching can be an extremely frustrating endeavor. Because what worked today might not work tomorrow. So, failure is just part of the experience. What separates the good from the average teachers is that the good teacher understands that failure is normal and they learn from it. They don’t do the same thing and expect different results. I do believe someone said the was the definition of insanity. However, some teachers do not recognize when they have failed. That is when the administrator must get involved. The building principal must be vigilant in seeking out teaching failures and even more attentive in providing feedback that makes the teacher better. You don’t give criticism to hurt someone, you provide it to help them.


G. Balancing Praise

“You have to use caution when you dole out praise. Too much praise and people, consciously or unconsciously, back off their efforts just a little bit. Multiply that times a whole team of people and you get a negative impact.” When giving out team praise, try to attach a goal to it to ensure that the team continues to work hard. However, if you continue to add goals, it can eventually dampen morale. The key is finding the right balance. Another technique is to give individual praise instead of group praise. “Praise is a tool, but it is a tool that must be wielded with caution.”


When you view praise, not through the lens of leadership, it can be seen as just being friendly. You might give praise to a friend just because you think they need to hear it. However, when you view praise through the lens of leadership, it becomes strategic. As a leader, you should never give out praise blindly. You need to know for certain that a person has gone above and beyond and then personally praise them. When I was a building principal and I witnessed a staff member doing something exceptional, I would often return to my office and handwrite them a quick note praising their efforts and put it in their mailbox. Many a time that same person would pop their head in my office at the end of the day or the next morning to let me know that I made their day with that note. As a leader, you possess a great deal of power and responsibility. Take the time to find the good and then give out praise.

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