Leadership Tip of the Week: Adopt a 360-degree View of Discipline

Few leaders enjoy disciplining team members.

When I was a new manager, the task of corrective discipline conjured feelings of pressure, hesitation and fear of reprisal. But after moving from a support role to managing more than 20 contract workers at a nonprofit, I quickly discovered that the formula for successfully developing others must begin with a thorough and objective evaluation of the situation at hand. Leaders are wise to adopt a 360-degree perspective on discipline.

As the cliché goes, leaders must practice what they preach. By upholding and communicating the values of an organization with clarity and confidence, leaders are better equipped to foster and maintain a positive and productive working environment. This means a leader must be committed to honest self-appraisal, especially when there is discord among followers.

According to Amy Gallo, author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, in order to discipline productively, a leader must “make a concrete, measurable plan for improvement” and “consider how you [the leader] might be contributing to the performance issues.” This means a leader must not only understand but also be able to envision how the ideal employee would perform in order to encourage best behaviors.

A good leadership exercise is to think about how the model employee would uphold company values and then to reflect on personal performance against this standard. Keeping regular self-evaluative records, soliciting feedback and keeping simultaneous team performance notes will provide the leader with insights into areas where he or she falls short of modeling what is expected of others.

Self-discipline, for new leaders especially, means showing up consistently and modeling value-based behaviors in myriad scenarios. For me, as a new program director years ago, this meant deep reflection and constant self-appraisal. Fostering this sense of self-discipline can seem like a journey of trial and error at times, but the investment will be worth it.

After all, it is from a strong foundation that a leader finds the confidence and clarity to create positive change in an organization or team.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.