So someone has done something you disagree with. Maybe they broke a policy or committed an egregious error for which they need to be informed, guided, and experience a course correction. That is what we call discipline and that is all it is – guidance, information, and a course correction. However, keep in mind that course corrections completed early on in someone’s growth and development are much easier to convey and carry out, than a course correction shared after a habit has been formed.
Perhaps this visual will help. If you were the captain of a large cruise ship and you left the port on a charted course that was one degree off your anticipated direction. If you only maintained the off course direction for an hour or two, it would be easy to make a correction and get back on track without any great loss of time. If you, however, maintained the slight off-course direction for several days, you might find yourself in a completely different country or continent than you intended and one does not just hit the blinker switch and flip a “U-ie” in a cruise ship out in the middle of the ocean.
Your role as a contagious leader of you, your life and others, is to provide gentle course corrections early on enough to make a long term difference. But, keep these things in mind…
Discipline is better received in private than in public.
Discipline is a dish better served with warmth than cold hearted facts, even if the consequences are large!
Discipline, when shared from your ‘wit’s end’ or a point at which you have “lost it” will almost always be taken personally and as criticism. The point is to provide feedback and course correction, so speak up early and consider the value in sharing your guidance versus letting things go (i.e. stuffing them) until you are ready to blow up.
Honor those you are leading with the sharing of your wisdom and experience. If they knew how to do it the way you do, they likely would. If they had lived your experience and were operating from your place of wisdom, they would likely have your role. Your wisdom and experience gives you a responsibility, not a position of being better or more special. Do not take that responsibility and the privilege it is to share your information with others, lightly.
Discipline is rarely considered to be one of the joys of leadership and many will shy away from those conversations that start with phrases like “we need to talk” or “what were you thinking?” and rightly so. But for growth and development, discipline is needed. After all, when you were little, weren’t you disciplined for wanting to run out into oncoming traffic? Probably. But weren’t you glad someone told you to look both ways?
Monica Wofford, MBA, CSP, is an international speaker, trainer, and author who helps managers who were promoted, actually become prepared to lead.