When someone needs help, it’s easier to stay out of it, to mind your own business and not get involved. But is that the best thing to do?
I recently found myself stuck in traffic at a stoplight. When the green light came and went, and there was no forward movement, I maneuvered into the turn lane.
As I approached the light, I spotted the source of the problem – a motorist who appeared to be having car trouble. Upon closer inspection, I saw an older man sitting in the truck, his head hanging down to his chest.
“Oh my God,” I thought. “This man needs help now!”
I jumped out of my car and ran toward him. As I approached, he lifted his head and rolled down the window. “Are you OK?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he responded, as if waking from a nap.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” I repeated.
“Yes, I’m OK.”
As I returned to my car, I wondered, “Why didn’t anyone else check on him, or even honk their horns?”
Then, I remembered the bystander effect, which states that the more people present, the less likely any of them will help someone in trouble. Everyone assumes someone else will deal with it.
The same thing happens in corporate America all the time. Rather than help our employees see opportunities for professional growth, we ignore the problem and hope someone else will do the hard (heart) work of giving feedback.
Sometimes It Hurts to Help
Many leaders avoid giving feedback because they simply don’t know how to do so without hurting feelings. I understand the dilemma. Often, people don’t take constructive criticism well, even if we have good intentions.
It takes courage to give feedback, because it’s a kindness that’s not always appreciated. Let go of your expectations about how they should receive the feedback. Share your perspective and suggest some small changes that would yield a better result. And don’t take it personally if they take it personally.
Have the Courage to Help Them Grow
Just as people assume someone else will help a person in trouble, most leaders assume, “If they wanted my feedback, they’d ask for it.” Or worse yet, “If they want to keep their jobs, someone better tell them to change their behavior.”
Leaders who provide clear feedback end up provoking greatness. Those who keep their mouths shut, or wait until annual reviews to speak up, will keep wondering why their teams are underperforming.
Don’t wait around for someone else to provoke the greatness in your team members. As a leader, that’s your job, and it’s unlikely anyone else will do it for you.
Join the Conversation: Have you ever met someone who refused to “stand by” as you failed?
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations, Hidden Heroes and Power Suck.