I know that in my first post of this series, I wrote that this final post would be about chivalry. After writing the previous ones, and thinking about some of the responses I have received, I thought I would write about something that would help in an area that is a source of uncertainty and potential anxiety. Addressing the performance of people we lead can be uncomfortable no matter what. It's not fun to have a conversation with someone who is not meeting the standards they are expected to meet. How do we help them identify the areas they are falling short in, and make them feel motivated to improve? From my observations, this discomfort is magnified when the leader is a woman who has to address a man who is not meeting the expected standards. I have witnessed women who were 100% correct on the issues they were addressing, but were uneasy with themselves and their approach in addressing the issues with the men they had to address, when dealing with the chauvinist; this can be the first shots of war.
Have a Pro-Active Plan to Document Everything
Stack the facts before addressing performance issues. It's much easier to have these conversations with men when you have the evidence documented and at the ready. The chauvinist will immediately become defensive and will challenge your observations, and question your judgment. Facts and examples will disarm this response. Whether you keep a journal on everything that goes on or you maintain examples of their work that did not meet standards or expectations, having these at the ready will diminish and, most likely, eliminate any argument on their part. It's also an excellent practice to help you motivate their improvements. You demonstrate to them that you are observing and documenting performance with facts, and how they go about improving will also be documented.
Assign Them to Create a Plan for Improvement
Accountability is the cornerstone to credibility. When addressing performance, assigning your people to come up with a plan for improvement is excellent for holding them accountable to taking action on the improvements they need to address. A male chauvinist will be defensive when his performance is addressed by a woman. Demonstrating that you are not interested in pointing out and dwelling on weaknesses in order to demonstrate power, but rather, you're more interested in what needs to happen to improve his performance and the overall performance of the team or organization will also provide a disarming result, and allow you to have a method for following up. You can set periodic reviews that address the progress of the improvement plan that he created and committed to. And, since it's a plan he created, his commitment to following it should be much higher than one that you created.
Offer to Help Them Develop Their Plan
This will demonstrate your commitment to their improvement as well. Getting shoulder to shoulder with your people will generate respect no matter their gender. When you offer to help your people develop a self-development plan, you are communicating that they are not just a number in the course of making a profit, and that they are interchangeable. You are saying to them that you depend on their development, and that their personal success matters and has an impact on your team or organization.
Body Language and Tone of Voice
I would argue that when addressing a man's work performance, your body language and tone of voice are the most important forms of communication. It communicates your level of confidence in your own leadership abilities. This is why I recommended documentation. When you have you facts in order, you're confident in what you are saying, it shows more in your body language and tone of voice more than any words you speak. Most normal people are uncomfortable with giving someone the bad news that their performance is not meeting expectations, and there is nothing wrong with that, but your level of confidence in your judgement of their performance must be unwavering.
Let's look at it from my honest point of view. I'm a Marine Corps veteran who was an officer, and has worked with women in the Marine Corps. I had women officers who I reported to. It is a very male dominant environment. There were woman officers who were not as confident when addressing me when there was something I needed to work on, and it showed. As a young officer, I had trouble respecting their judgement of my performance when everything in their body language communicated that they were both uncomfortable and unsure of what they were telling me I needed to work on. Their words may very well have been 100% factual, but that was not what I was hearing. I heard that they thought I should work on something, but they were not sure, and that they had anxiety about if I challenged them on their judgement. On the flip-side, I had women officers I reported to that had full confidence, and their body language communicated that. Even if their words were not 100% accurate, there was no arguing about what I needed to work on. They were not mean or unreasonable, but they had their ducks in order and full confidence in their own judgement of the performance of their Marines and the improvements that needed to happen. They were well respected because of it.
Don't forget the first post of this series when preparing to address a man's work performance, especially if you are working with a male chauvinist:
Secrets For Women Who Lead Men In The Workplace
Ladies, you have a much tougher job in establishing respect as a leader, even more so in male dominated environments. The line between being a respected leader and not respected is razor thin for most women in those environments, which is why I have great respect for women who take on the challenge of leadership in male dominated environments. You are out in the open, exposed to the fire, and that requires great courage. You must be intentional in your own personal and professional growth, because it's an all or nothing path for most of you.
If you would like to take your intentionality in growing your influence as a leader to another level, visit my SERVICES page and explore if COACHING or MASTERMIND GROUPS & WORKSHOPS are options that you would like to explore for your leadership development path.
Agoge Leadership Development LLC
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