We have all likely been in a situation like this before. We ask, or tell, a subordinate to do something, a task, and in our mind we are crystal clear as to what we want. After some time they report that the task is done. Much to our amazement (or chagrin, or anger, you fill in the emotion) the task is not done to our standards. We are beside ourselves with (fill in another emotion) and decide to take action… My question, are you dissatisfied with the performance, or are you mad at the performer? Does it matter, you ask? Well, it could be shaping how the performer sees you (or doesn’t see you) as a leader. This is not just splitting hairs, or an exercise in semantics. Here is why.
Mad at the Performer
When I am angry with the performer, what I am saying is that they, the follower, let me down. I am operating under the belief that they had a perfect understanding of what I wanted. They read my mind perfectly. They had the exact same investment in that task that I had.They knew exactly how to perform the task. Notice though, where the focus is. Is it on you as a leader or on them, the follower? When you, as a “leader” blame them, see them as the entire source of the bad outcome, you are by definition not being a leader. They were the ones who were asked to meet standards that were perhaps ambiguous or confusing. They were acting within the parameters of their understanding or skillset.
Dissatisfied with the Performance
If I am dissatisfied with the performance, I am admitting that I have a part in the performance. I, as a “leader” did not give clear enough directions. I did not ensure that they understood what I wanted. I, also, now can focus on what I need to do in the future with this performer to help them, and us, achieve success in whatever endeavors we are working on. As a leader, as a coach, as a mentor, the sooner you start to believe that the quality of performance is a direct reflection of your leadership, the sooner you can start achieving the success you desire.
So, if you are mad at anyone, be mad at yourself. Direct your anger to the real culprit here, you. You are the one, as a leader, who can control the conversations you have, the moods you live in, the futures you create. As for me, I am going to go attempt to have some better conversations with my team. I have some performances I want to help them improve.