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HOW TO BE FIRM BUT FAIR

Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

Everyone wants to be a great leader, and there is no reason not to try and attain that goal. Good leaders have good teams working with them, since they make an effort to lead them in a positive way and that is reflected in the quality and attitudes of the employees themselves.

But everyone recognises that there are times when a leader needs to deal with a situation which isn’t that pleasant. Perhaps an employee has not done their job correctly, or made a mistake that has had an impact on the business in some way. In this case it is down to the leader to be firm but fair in providing corrective feedback, or even disciplining the team member, and making sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

It’s important to realise that the way you deal with any one situation can enhance or undermine the way that all future situations are played out. If you are overly sympathetic in order to avoid potential confrontation and don’t take the actions you ought to at the time, people will come to assume there won’t be any comeback if they should make a mistake in the future too. In effect your status as a manager and leader will be undermined, since you have demonstrated that you cannot manage a problem effectively.

It’s obvious that there are some aspects of being a confident leader that are somewhat undesirable, and disciplining employees for whatever reason is certainly one of them. But just because you may not want to be in the room or the situation any more than they do, that doesn’t mean you can step back from dealing with it in the correct way.

So how exactly do you be firm but fair?

It’s plain to see that your first task must be to ensure that the same situation does not happen again. As such you should make sure that you not only correct the behaviour of the employee responsible, but you also send a clear message to the rest of the team that any mistakes will be addressed appropriately. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your meeting with the employee concerned should be anything less than confidential.

There are many different levels of feedback, including the communication of behavioural expectations, and you can tailor your feedback or discipline to suit the situation. Importantly, a leader’s ability to provide timely, objective and specific corrective feedback will help to enhance their credibility and will definitely assist in the achievement of the team goals. Team members will also be far more receptive to corrective feedback if it is balanced at the appropriate time with fair and spontaneous positive feedback as well.

In the end your handling of any particular event will help to establish your role as the leader of a team. Although no one likes to be corrected, as long as you are firm but fair in doing it, your colleagues will come to respect you for it and will give you the performance you are looking for.

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