Some of my closest friends are my toughest critics. It doesn't mean they don't care about me or aren't there for me in tough times. It just means they tell it like it is. They aren't afraid to challenge me or push me to see something from a different perspective.
Real friends will tell when you're being a jerk to someone who loves you like your parents, siblings, partner, etc. They call you out on your BS. They call you out on excuses. They remind you you're a great person. When you're complaining about your job, they ask you if you're the problem and ask why you aren't working harder.
Real friends say the things others don't because they care about one another. They know when help is needed, regardless if it's wanted. We all want friends who are easy and friends who are fun, but more importantly, we need a friend or two who tells us the truth - good, bad or otherwise.
We also need managers like this. It's called caring about people. When you know it starts from someone having your best interest at heart, then it works. Life isn't easy. We need people in our lives who set us straight and push us. No fluff. No BS. Honest, real, brutal-truth feedback. These are the types of managers who know how to motivate their top players to achieve more, giving them new mountains to climb in a way that won't burn them out.
Great management teams don't just put people first, they put the hardworking people first. They don't take their people for granted and they help their people achieve career success...and that means both praising when it's deserved and giving the tough feedback when it's called for.
Have brutal-truth conversations about where the employee fell short. Not sugarcoating it but instead looking at the issue and creating a solution together to improve and be better tomorrow.
Being able to deliver tough feedback and it be received in the intended way takes time. It doesn't happen overnight, just like any true friendship. But you have to practice to continue to improve. Role play. Say it out loud by yourself, and most of all, it has to start with caring about your people and having their best interests at heart.
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