Choose your hard

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brittany Nutt
  • 436th Health Care Operations Squadron

I attended a church service a few weeks ago when I was home for a visit and my pastor preached a sermon on, “Choosing your hard.” He pointed out that every day we are faced with choices that will have second and third order impacts on our lives. Even not making a choice is a decision that can still affect each and every one of us. One of the points he read from the inspirational quotation that was discussed was about communication. My pastor made the point that communicating is hard, but so is not communicating.

As Airmen, we make a choice to communicate or not communicate every day and there are repercussions. I think this is most poignantly felt when we are providing feedback to each other.

Whether formal or informal, communication is important to the success of Airmen and the success of our missions. Feedback is vital for improving and strengthening people because it is one of the best ways we can develop them. However, many supervisors are afraid to give constructive, truthful feedback and hold people accountable. The effects of not providing feedback will lead to continued subpar work performance, frustrations with the member and decreased unit morale. On the flip side, many Airmen are fearful of receiving feedback because they fear feelings of inadequacy or failure. What Airmen need to understand is that they don’t have to be perfect to be successful, and feedback does not mean they are failures.

Even though communication about work performance is difficult, leaders have to do better about providing timely feedback, and Airmen have to be better about requesting feedback.

As Brene Brown writes in her leadership book, Dare to Lead, “Clear is kind.” Clear communication increases understanding and reduces the amount of time supervisors spend trying to rehabilitate poor behaviors. But how did the supervisors wind up in the predicament of having to deal with a poor performer? Most likely the supervisor put off the hard talk required to provide the employee the information he or she needed to improve. Choosing not to communicate merely delayed important guidance and further complicated the situation. If supervisors are afraid to hold people accountable, it only creates a more complex situation that will be harder to resolve when working with a poor performing employee.    

Brown has some great points for giving feedback, one point that speaks to me is that supervisors can, “Hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.” Leaders need to provide tangible, actionable information that an employee can act on and feedback should always be respectful. Furthermore, supervisors should also remain humble and be accepting of feedback from their Airmen. If we truly want to support each other as we grow ourselves and other Airmen, we cannot be afraid to have honest conversations with each other.

So the next time you are thinking about avoiding that hard talk, remember that communicating is hard, but not communicating is also hard. Then, choose your hard.