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Does it Take Courage To Give Feedback?
by CAPT John E. Williams, MSO Wilmington
|During the 1999 National Naval Officers Association conference
in Norfolk, Va., several Coast Guard junior officers expressed concern and disappointment
with commands that did not give them the opportunity to see their performance evaluation
before the report was mailed out. The worst case scenario, according to these JOs, is when
they are being transferred and have to wait 12 to 16 weeks to get a copy of their
end-of-tour evaluation in the mail. By that time, the JO has been transferred and, in many
cases, so have one or two of the people who wrote the report. Some officers stated they
were unaware their performance was marginal or below expectations until they received a
copy of their Officer Evaluation Report in the mail. These JOs ended up feeling extremely
suspicious of their supervisors and abandoned and deceived by a command that lacked the
courage to show them their evaluations.
Should the Coast Guard require that commands show officers their performance evaluations, as they do for enlisted members and civilians?
One school of thought is that if the Coast Guard requires an evaluator to show and discuss an evaluation, the evaluator will be less inclined to prepare an accurate assessment of an individuals performance. This perspective is based on human nature, which has a natural hesitancy or unwillingness to deal with disagreement or to give bad news.
But I suggest another point of view good leaders must have the courage to face conflict constructively, use effective communication to manage performance, and articulate performance expectations to subordinates. This perspective is in line with the Coast Guards 21 leadership competencies. It supports the idea that if performance expectations are established and counseling is taking place during the reporting period, then performance evaluations (good or bad) should not be a surprise.
The role of leadership entails having the courage to lead by example. Those in leadership positions are expected to inspire and motivate others with their own behaviors, attitudes, skills and confidence. As members of the Coast Guard, we pride ourselves in actions that meet the highest professional and moral standards. We cant tell our people we care about them and then act as if we dont. We should not buy off on the human nature school of thought as justification for a lack of courage and commitment to our subordinates. Instead, we should set a higher standard and then hold leaders accountable and responsible.
Inspirational leadership cannot take place if the leader lacks the confidence to have face-to-face discussions in the often-stressful situation of performance appraisal meetings. This behavior cheats the subordinate whose performance is in question and sends a strong message to the staff that this is acceptable leadership.
The only thing worse than a person who knows he or she is doing a bad job, is a person who is doing a bad job but thinks its a good job. If Coast Guard supervisors accept the responsibility of preparing a subordinates performance evaluation, they must also be expected (or required) to show and discuss it with the subordinate. Anything less is a leadership failure.
|Suggestions for Effective Counseling