Balancing Caring Leadership and Delegation: How to Address Underperformance in a Constructive and Empathetic Way

Achieving the delicate balance between being a caring leader and maintaining a high level of conscientiousness can be a difficult task for leaders at all levels of experience.

As a Master Trainer at Emergy, Ira Leppänen understands the challenges that leaders face when trying to balance excessive conscientiousness with a caring and empathetic approach. She reminds leaders that while it is important to have a big heart and care for their employees, it is also crucial for them to have the courage to delegate responsibilities and trust their team members to handle problem-solving situations.

According to Leppänen, feelings of inadequacy are common in the workplace, especially for leaders who want to ensure the well-being of their employees. However, it’s important to remember that while work should be fulfilling, it’s also necessary to achieve business goals. If a leader’s team members are not performing to the desired level, it’s essential to stop and consider if there is a proper balance between empowering and accountability. This is what Leppänen calls “loving pressure” and it’s important to have the balanced approach.

She also highlights that underperformance is an abstract concept that should be discussed with employees to identify the root cause and work on a solution together. She suggests starting the conversation by clearly defining the team’s goals, and illustrating the target level and the employee’s current level using concrete examples. This way, it’s easier for the employee to understand what’s at stake and what needs to be achieved.

“Ask how you as a supervisor can help to close this gap and reach the desired level of performance. Then remember to continue asking the employee what they intend to do in the future to close this gap.”

By doing this, the leader is not only showing that they truly care about the employee, but also delegating responsibility to the employee to solve the problem.

It is important to remember that leaving a poorly performing employee alone is not the solution. We need to be understanding that personal matters can affect job performance, but emphasize that it’s important to have a conversation, show interest and understanding. Genuine care and delegation are also a sign of respect.


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