The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – What is tough love leadership?
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks about wellness, wellbeing, the maximisation of potential and how they all relate to tough love leadership. Dr Thackeray feels that increasingly when we talk about mental health in the workplace what we’re actually talking about is mental illness and that a culture has developed where we feel we have to ‘look after’ people and almost treat them as infants.
At school, many children seem to have an unhealthy attitude towards failure, don’t have strategies to stick at things and increasingly possess a view of the world based on perfectionism. When they enter the world of work they seem to struggle but, as research shows, linking perfectionism and a lack of accountability creates people who are both entitled and vulnerable so this is probably not at all suprising. In the workplace, even at senior level, there is an attitude of not saying something because it might upset someone or their mental health and psychological safety has become interpreted as ‘what managers can’t do anymore’. Discussing performance issues has become difficult and, in leadership terms, it seems to have been forgotten that leadership is about what you can do not what you cant.
Tough Love leadership is a combination of radical candor and caring about the whole person front of you. Dr Thackeray thinks we should be encouraging the creation of a culture that is adult by nature with a more rational approach where behaviour and outcomes are the drivers rather than feelings and emotions. He feels accountability is the starting point and that we need to get the focus back on behaviours and where they come from. Accountability needs to be seen as part of a learning culture. So does failure. People need to realise that if they fail it might not be their fault, rather it might be the process they are operating. There is a need to learn from what goes wrong which means taking risks and that of course means possible failure. But from it we can start to build a cycle of accountability – we get something wrong, we put it right and we don’t make the same mistake again.
An adult culture is psychologically safe because it’s about finding out about people’s potential and helping them to achieve it. They get feedback, they’re coached, they’re pushed appropriately and they’re spoken to as adults. Professional conversations like this help people to become more robust in their own thinking and mindset and also helps leaders develop the communication skills they need so they can focus on rational behaviours and outcomes that are important. Behaviours like blaming and dwelling need to be dealt with and the focus shifted back on plan and the effects of what they are going to do. We need to participate in intellectual debate that doesn’t become personal – conflict is a collaborative process where we engage to unpack ideas and have robust conversations.
Its time to change the nature of the debate and to start to focus on leadership. We need to look at potential, to have the candor to build a ladder of culture, to build professional relationships and to have the empathy to see the person in front of us as a whole. We need to get back to a more holistic approach and figure out how to make the best of the people around us and to use the resources we have in the best way to get the job done.
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