According to Vital Learning's Essential Skills of Leadership program, a foundational skill in leadership is to always be building and maintaining the self-esteem of one's team members. In fact, this skill may very well be the cornerstone of good leadership. Often times, however, leaders move too quickly to take the care needed to do this effectively when providing feedback and both the loss of loyalty and talent can result.
To illustrate the fragile nature of self-esteem, consider for a moment one of the worlds most competent musicians to ever have lived: Beethoven. The film, “Immortal Beloved,” is about the life of Beethoven and while it has a fictional story line, it also offers many true scenes from this great masters life.
In one such scene, Beethoven is conducting his own composition (imagine that for a moment) but he is completely deaf and this fact has not yet been discovered by his audience or the populations at large. The orchestra becomes completely frustrated with Beethoven and literally stops playing. The audience is quite entertained and begins laughing due to their perception of his lack of competence. It is a powerful example of the fragility of self-esteem, and how easy it is for us to jump to conclusions about someone’s behavior and be totally off the mark.
When confronted with performance that falls short of the expectation, ask the team member for their opinion first and try to understand the situation from their perspective before providing your own observations. You may learn new information that builds both the relationship and the performance of your employee.