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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 06, 2018 1:00 am

Tact, timing vital in chastising employees

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

There's a saying that timing is everything. So is audience.

I am still occasionally in awe with incidents or stories where leaders have publicly addressed concerns that stem from private verbal or written communications – even if there are potential lessons a larger group can or should learn.

Tact – like timing – is important.

Savvy leaders know not just when, but how, to get their points across. With a little forethought and care, they usually can accomplish the big-picture communication – clarifying what to do and what not to do – without making it clear the individuals and situations that prompted the concerns.

There's also a saying that leaders should praise in public and criticize in private.

Guidelines often come with exceptions. Leaders may need to chastise in public to respond to incidents that occur in public or also if the nature of an incident that occurred in private becomes an unsettling public concern. But in every situation, it's important to weigh whether publicly addressing issues – even to be expedient – could damage some relationships longer term.

Kim Scott, in an online blog at, says radical candor is not the same as “front stabbing.”

I think that's often how people feel when they hear a leader address something that has already been said to them in private.

The best feedback is helpful, humble, immediate and in person, Scott wrote, using the acronym HIP.

“When I want to encourage public criticism so that everyone learns from each other's mistakes, I let it be self-reported,” Scott wrote. “I try to make people feel comfortable admitting mistakes by building a culture of self-criticism.”

Seems reasonable to me.

New reads

New leadership books that rolled off the press in April include:

• “Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to be a Better Boss” by James Manktelow and Julian Birkinshaw.

Managers wear numerous hats and have diverse duties including delegation, prioritization, strategy, communication and problem solving. Success in leadership comes from results, and results come from the effective coordination of often competing needs, according to a synopsis.

The Mind Tools book covers “the 100 most important leadership skills – as voted for by 15,000 managers and professionals worldwide.” Readers will find tips on building the ideal team and keeping them motivated, making better decisions, managing time and stress, and mastering communication and facilitating innovation.

• “The Leader Habit: Master the Skills You Need to Lead in Just Minutes a Day” by Martin Lank, who is based in Denver and has spent more than 10 years designing and running leadership development programs for global companies.

Lank, who has a doctorate degree in industrial/organizational psychology, focuses on 22 essential leadership abilities. The book includes five-minute exercises to help readers practice new skills until they become habits, according to a synopsis in the spring-summer catalog of books from American Management Association International.

“Many of us aspire to great leadership ... consuming books and training,” the synopsis said. “But unless you intentionally reinforce the right behaviors, results are fleeting.”

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at