In 1965, the Jackie DeShannon song with its famous lyrics, “What the world needs now is love sweet love,” became a megahit, and has since been recorded by one hundred additional artists.
Today, fifty-two years later, as one observes what has arguably become a crybaby culture, filled with snowflake people, buffered by marshmallow mindsets, demonstrating buttercup work ethics, it’s clear what we really need more of in parenting, in schools, on teams, and in leadership is “love, tough love.”
Tough love, is a concept often underappreciated and misunderstood. By definition, it means “promotion of a person’s welfare, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.” I heard a college basketball coach comment in an interview recently that he didn’t understand the need for the term “tough love,” because if you truly loved someone, you would hold them accountable, apply consequences and expect them to take responsibility for their actions. This is true, coach, but in the world we live in, hordes of people don’t understand that. They instead believe that you show love by not expecting much from someone, so he or she isn’t made to feel uncomfortable or pressured; or, believing that loving someone means giving a person six “second chances” without any real consequences for performance; or, that if you love someone you will trivialize truth and sugarcoat your feedback to spare someone hurt feelings.
Tough love is about telling the truth in love, respectfully—not by being a jerk, getting personal, or becoming disrespectful. Following are nine keys to developing a more effective tough-love style of coaching that promotes what’s right and productive over what’s easy or popular.
1. Hire people that want to be coached.
To develop others, you can’t do all the work yourself. The performer must bring you the right attitude, humility, ability, and desire to grow. Hopefully, you have a well-structured hiring process, including an effective personality assessment that helps you determine this.
2. Give balanced feedback.
Tough-love coaching isn’t about just pointing out what’s wrong and needs improvement, or holding people accountable with consequences. You should be just as honest and vocal when the performer does well, and use it as an opportunity to reinforce what you expect to see in the future.
3. Give specific feedback.
The more specific you are concerning positive or deficient performance, the easier it is for the performer to know which behaviors to continue and which to change. Don’t fall into the politically correct trap of giving general feedback to spare someone’s feelings. Tough-love coaching is about being more concerned with someone’s future than their feelings.
4. Make your feedback about performance, not personal.
Be as blunt, graphic, and critical of the performance and its consequences as is necessary to make your point and get the performer’s attention. However, this isn’t a license to insult, disrespect or make your feedback personal in a manner that makes it more about the person than about the performance.
5. Don’t trivialize truth.
If someone lies, call it a lie; not simply a “bad” decision. If someone is late, they are not simply “tardy;” they’re violating your core values of integrity and teamwork. If a team member consciously decided to not prepare, it’s not simply an “oversight;” it’s lazy and indifferent behavior that affects the entire team’s welfare.
6. Don’t apologize for consequences.
Consequences for non-performance are necessary to change behaviors and help the team member become more productive. So why would you apologize for applying them if they have been earned? You can express regret that they behaved in a manner that made the consequence essential, but don’t apologize for doing what’s right and necessary by applying them.
7. After correction, redefine a performance expectation.
By restating a performance expectation after corrective feedback, you refocus the performer on what you expect in the future, what the standard is, and not simply the fact they fell short of it.
8. Show what good performance looks like and why it’s important.
It’s not enough to talk about the performance you expect. Show people what great performance looks like, explain why it’s important, and how it impacts the team’s results over all.
9. Reinforce improvements five times more than you think you should have to.
This is because when you’re trying to create a new behavior, far more reinforcing feedback is required than you may believe is reasonable or necessary. Changing habits and behaviors is difficult, so expect to work harder to reinforce what you do want, in order to help them break free of what you don’t want.
Yep, to reinforce your culture, protect your brand, enhance the customer experience, strengthen leadership credibility, and help others grow to their fullest potential, what your world needs now is “love, tough love.” If you care about your people you will confront them when necessary, install high expectations, deliver honest feedback, provide training for the journey, and apply consequences when needed to help improve performance. After all, no one is ever likely say about you, “He or she changed my life because they were easy on me.”
Author: Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson is President of LearnToLead which provides in-person and virtual training to many of the world’s best dealerships. Dave speaks to dealer groups over 125 times each year and has given seminars in 15 countries. He’s written the leadership column for Dealer Magazine for the past fifteen years. Dave’s 13th book, “It’s Not Rocket Science: 4 Simple Strategies for Mastering the Art of Execution” is now available worldwide. For daily leadership tips follow Dave on Twitter @DaveAnderson100.