Managing from One Foot Away

A recent interaction with another coach affirmed for me the wisdom of “Praise in Public, Correct in Private” and confirmed for me how personal an experience it is for anyone to receive criticism, correction or discipline from a leader, manager, coach or in this case a fitness instructor.

It’s this simple, when I’m corrected in public I feel rebuked and when it’s done one-to-one I feel encouraged.

As part of my belief in Training Ugly and getting out of my comfort zone, I take a weekly TRX class at the local rec centre.  TRX stands for Total Resistance eXercise and it’s a suspension training system that relies entirely on your own body weight to provide resistance. It’s not easy to master and after a year of classes, it continues to challenge my limits each week.

Our instructor preaches form over speed and corrects posture and position as she walks through the room.  With music playing and many other bodies planking, pulling and squatting, sometimes that correction comes in a shout from across the room and sometimes it comes from 1 foot away.

It’s amazing how the correction from afar feels like stinging, personal criticism.  It’s the affect of the audience.  Most people are OK with an expert correcting us, but not OK with other people knowing our weaknesses.  Like the first tee in golf, we feel like everyone is watching and critiquing us.  They are not, of course, and are likely too focused on their own posture or position to be worried about the tall guy in the corner not lunging correctly.

While correction stings from long distance, from 1 foot it feels collaborative and inspirational.  Like we are working toward a common goal and the small correction is a missing piece.  Many of my personal “Aha” moments in the weekly TRX class are from the softly spoken comment, suggestion or correction. From one foot I am thinking about the message and not how it was delivered or perceived in the room.

The same applies for managers that are delivering feedback.

If you can create an environment where the receiver feels the information is being shared with collaborative intent for their benefit, it’s more likely the message will be understood and acted upon.

Even disciplinary meetings should be delivered in this way.  The higher the stakes for the individual on your team – and a meeting that could lead to termination is as high as it gets – the more important it is for the manager to create a safe and personal environment.  This gives you the best chance for the message and proposed corrective action to be heard and not get lost in the emotion that the person is feeling.

So move a little closer, don’t be shy.

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