Are you a heat-seeking fault-finder?

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True confession:
I’m a podcast junkie.

Maybe you are, too! I went down a rabbit hole recently after a phrase caught my attention and stuck long after other podcasts had faded. This phrase could have such power for leaders in helping you reframe your approach with your team.

For the parents reading this, you may already be familiar with this phrase. Make no mistake: I’m in no way suggesting that leading is like parenting. It’s not. But that shouldn’t preclude us from using a good tool from another context.

Connection before correction.

The good folks over at Conscient Strategies say connection before correction is imperative to lead people. They say, and I agree, deadlines, chaos, and disruption can put leaders in fix-it mode. This may achieve a short-term win, but the long-term effects often leave people feeling undervalued and frustrated.

They mapped out a three-step process, which I’ve adapted based on my experience coaching leaders. Here’s the simple, straightforward, and totally actionable framework for strengthening your team. Let’s break it down!

First and foremost, focus on connecting. Cool your fault finding laser jets and, instead, catch your team “doing good.”

Connect to Strengthen: 3 steps
  1. Observe – Be a curious anthropologist. Watch your team. Notice what they’re getting right and tell them. We need three positives to one negative (at least) for feedback to feel balanced.
  2. Communicate – To be terrific; you need to be specific. In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown says, “clear is kind.” Use clear, specific, and concise words to help your team understand what you need from them and encourage them to do the same with you.
  3. Care – Ooof. This can be a hard one. Empathy is a blind spot for a lot of leaders. My hunch is that most are high-achieving, high-performing folks focused on goals and results. These are good things. And, without the capacity to empathize with your team and colleagues, we leave a lot of potential on the table. Empathy is not being a doormat or a hero “saving others.” It’s not pity or letting others off the hook. Empathy is being able to have loving compassion for yourself and others. High-performing teams understand this and hold space to share common ground, no matter how small, to express care and consideration for each other.

When correction is needed—use these same three steps AFTER connecting:

  1. Observe – Without blame or judgment, consider all the relevant factors that might be contributing to the situation that needs attention. Seed your mind before you problem solve.
  2. Communicate – Ask clarifying questions that include what, how, when, who, where, etc. Avoid asking “why” questions as they rarely offer useful information when you’re seeking to provide a team member with performance feedback.
  3. Care – Share the problem-solving with them. Free up their imagination by using the “Yes-And” technique to generate as many ideas without evaluation as possible, and then evaluate them together to select workable ideas. This kind of caring helps people relax in tough situations and helps them see that you are in league with them. Let support be a synonym for accountability and ask how you can support them in taking the action needed to resolve the situation.

Add this simple framework to your leadership toolbox to help you flourish and build a spirit of connection in your organization.


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Hey there, I'm Kimberley

Welcome! I believe our social sector organizations are at the forefront of making here better. With more than 33 years of diversified fundraising and nonprofit experience, I partner with courageous organizations committed to building clarity and confidence. Let’s connect and chart your nonprofit’s path to thriving. 

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