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"Daring Leaders Are Never Silent About Hard Things"

When I heard this quote from Brené Brown, I had to stop and catch my breath.

I used to work in HR, and one of the worst parts of the job was having to deliver the news to people that they were being let go. I didn't do it completely alone - typically the manager would give a quick sentence or two at the beginning explaining why "today is your last day." They'd then leave the room, and I'd be left alone with the now former employee to go over any severance package and health insurance details. It was a large company, so this was a routine I went through most Fridays.

One morning, I was going through the normal motions of an upcoming termination. I met with the manager about an hour before before to finalize the paperwork, discuss the plan of action, and made sure he felt prepared for his short moment in the spotlight.

"He's seen this coming for a while now," the manager confirmed when I asked how the employee might respond to the news.

The seemingly impromptu meeting on the ground floor began, and the manager walked out after giving his quick spiel only a few short minutes later.

When the latch of the door clicked, I immediately realized that this wasn't a routine termination. I made eye contact with the employee, and I'll never forget his face. He was pale, shocked, and speechless.

His reaction told me everything I needed to know. Never once did his manager indicate he was performing poorly, yet here he was in the room with me - stunned. Needless to say, the rest of the conversation was excruciatingly painful, both for him and me.

I swore to myself that day I'd never let that happen to anyone on my team - that I'd never be the boss who runs someone over like a semi truck with information I was too scared to bring it up. That I'd never be the person who let poor performance build up to a point of irreparable without giving someone the opportunity to improve. As hard as having performance conversations is, it's a million times easier than seeing someone walk out of the building confused, demoralized, and defeated with a box of items representing a big piece of their identity.

It's never easy. As many times as I've had to give someone constructive feedback, I still feel that pang of anxiety right before I start. I still worry that I am going to hurt their feelings or the words aren't going to come out right. And believe me when I say there have been many times when both of those things happened, and it wasn't pretty. But I have to remind myself that I did the right thing by bringing it up, and their reaction alone is constructive feedback for me to improve my delivery the next time. The only thing I know for a fact at this point is that giving more constructive feedback makes giving constructive feedback easier.

So here's your friendly reminder from Brené to speak up, even when it feels hard. It might feel awkward or intimidating, but you don't want to be the manager I saw who had to go to sleep that night knowing he fired someone because he was scared.



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