Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding the Supportive Path

I’m fortunate to have such positive and productive relationships with my colleagues at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic).

Yet, I am not a friend or a cheerleader.  I don’t spew inspirational quotes.  And there is no gold star at the end of the day for a job well done.

That’s because I respect each of my colleagues professionally.  My job is to create an environment in which they are each set up for success, and be clear and consistent about expectations for performance.

It is then up to each individual to define and deliver on their own career path.  For the truly talented, this empowerment is motivation enough.

However, it is absolute requirement for me to be publicly supportive and stand behind each of my colleagues in client interactions.  Any disagreement I may have is shared in private for their consideration.

I raise this last point because of an article I recently read about a talk given by former Washington, DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee.  Lamenting the failure of the US educational system to adequately prepare children for a globally competitive world, Rhee placed much of the blame on parents who tell their kids they are great when they aren’t.

“My two girls play soccer, yet they suck at soccer,” Rhee said, as her young daughters sat mortified in the audience. 

Referring to the trophies and medals they’ve received for participation, Rhee continued, “We are so concerned with making children feel good about themselves.  But, we haven’t put in the time to make them good at anything.  We’ve managed to build a sense of complacency with our children.”

While I actually agree with Rhee’s contention about the harm done by this “everyone is a winner mentality”, I do take issue with the humiliation she chose to dump on her own daughters.

What possible purpose could that serve?  Will it make them tougher?  Inspire them to succeed?

Probably not.

The challenge in management is to find the path that allows you to be supportive, yet still set realistic expectations related to performance and professional growth.

1 comment:

Mark Pilipczuk said...

Like you, I agree with her fundamental premise. But there's a better way than calling out your own children.

A real simple tweak that would have made the point just as well would have been to personalize it. "I have a drawer full of trophies ribbons from soccer/band camp/etc." Same story, same point.

The more troubling thing is that she, apparently, has done the same thing over and over. Is she getting feedback or even listening?