Course Correction

Corrective action is something we as leaders must face at one time or another.  Whether you are giving or receiving corrective action, it can be uncomfortable or even down right demoralizing.

Think about it – if you have ever been called to the office to meet with your immediate supervisor because your actions deserve a course correction, it can elicit some negative emotions. 

Likewise, if you have ever had to discuss behavioral issues with a subordinate, it too can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth – especially if you are the type of leader that thrives on seeing your people succeed.

However, it does not have to be a negative experience when it is presented in a positive light.  As leaders we do have control over how we handle presenting corrective action.

For example, if we come into the meeting angry or upset and allow our emotions to control our presentation, the recipient’s defense mechanisms usually flare up and our desired outcome (a behavior correction) will be lost.  Therefore, it is a best practice to wait and rationally evaluate the reasons for meeting with the employee instead of doing so immediately. 

During the meeting (which should always be done in private and away from the employee’s peers) focus primarily on the negative behavior and not the person.  Keep the discussion on what specific action or inaction is causing you to meet. 

Throughout the meeting, encourage the employee to come up with solutions to correct their behavior.  This will produce better buy-in from the employee and, thus, a greater likelihood they will change.

If needed, schedule a follow-up appointment if the initial shock of being held accountable is too overwhelming for the employee.  Remember to keep calm and stay in control of your emotions, no matter the reaction of the employee.

I recently had an employee that needed corrective action because he was not completing daily tasks.  After several coaching sessions from his immediate supervisor, he was still not performing at the expected level.  The next step was to hold him accountable through the company’s corrective action process.

During our meeting, I sensed he was upset and emotional.  I told him that we would follow-up in a couple of days to discuss solutions.  A couple of days later we met in an informal setting in his department, away from his peers.  He came up with several great solutions and since then his work behaviors have dramatically improved. 

Had I approached the meeting as a “one-way conversation” and berated him for his poor performance, it would not have produced what was needed:  an employee willingly contributing to the success of the team.

Remember, you are the leader and therefore have control over the tone of the meeting.  Ensure the employee that you believe in them and only want to see them succeed.  Corrective action can produce positive results if it is done with the spirit of helping the employee become better.


Published by Bryan Etters

Hi! I am a servant leader determined to help leaders grow and develop their personal and professional leadership skills. I am a retired military member with over 20 years of leadership experience in both the military and business worlds. I am determined to help you lead!

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