Successful leaders know the right strategies to get the most out of their team. They aren’t afraid to be seen as “tough” or strict as long as it means they get the job done right!
Tough love leadership isn’t about being tough or strict excessively without reason, though. Tough love leaders know how and when to be tough on their employees when they know it will benefit the work.
Being a good tough love leader also involves building trust with your team and really getting to know them. It’s also about being reasonably flexible and open to change. Here are some ways you can practice tough love leadership with your team.
Get To Know Your Team Properly
Getting to know your team is one of the most important and vital steps you can take toward being a tough love leader. You need to know things like, “What are their personal career goals in the short term? What do they hope to learn? Where do they need to grow? How much more would they like to take on? How’s life at home?”
“By taking a true interest in each person’s standing (both personally and within the company), your employees will feel more inclined to work toward the goals they laid out, rather than a project you outlined in a team huddle.” – Forbes
Saying something like “I understand that details really matter to you, so I think you’d be better off going over this report again” is far more effective than saying “because I said so”. Knowing your employees well enough to know how to be tough on them in a way that is effective is the only way to be a good tough love leader.
In order to really motivate your team, you have to give them a sense of purpose. That’s because getting your team to stand behind you on projects is rarely about the job itself. It’s about using their personal goals as a type of leverage to motivate them to do their best work.
Set The “What” and “Why” But Be Flexible About The “How”
It’s very important to set clear goals with your team. You can be strict about the “what” and “why” of a task, but don’t necessarily be too strict about the “how.” Why? Because it’s very important to make sure employees have the autonomy to complete tasks on their own and in a way that suits their work style best.
“Make sure you understand and have fully explained, the logic behind a task so that all team members involved have a buy-in to its importance. If they don’t, it will never be completed to the level you desire.” – Forbes
Once they buy into the “what” and accept your “why” logic, let them complete the task as they see fit. When you’re generous with your team and flexible about how they can get something done, they are more likely to work hard to achieve it. You can’t be tough without providing some generosity as well.
Build Trusting Relationships
It’s no surprise the tough love approach requires that you be tough–it’s in the name! However, before you can make demands on your team, it is essential that you build trust with them.
Being tough but flexible builds trust and makes it easier to call employees out when they’ve done something wrong. When you’re understanding of others they’re understanding of you. They will work harder to make you happy. It’s a give-and-take relationship.
Trusting relationships hold up better under the weight of tough love. When your team trusts you, they will find it easier to support your decisions even when they don’t agree with them since they will really believe that it’s for the best. They know you wouldn’t be tough on them without reason.
Be Open To Feedback And Change
Tough love leadership is about bringing out the best in you as well as your team. In this way, you have to be open to feedback and be humble enough to admit when you’re wrong. You can’t be tough on people without admitting that you have faults as well. Everyone can improve, including and especially leaders.
Having open communication will ensure that your team always feels like they can come to you when things aren’t working. Tough love leadership is effective because it makes everyone feel really “seen” while simultaneously pushing them to continuously bring out their best.
“The challenge is to set high demands while still being supportive.” – Inc.com
When you approach your relationships in a tough but loving way, everyone is stronger for it. Your team will be eager to take on more responsibility and help you achieve your vision! Isn’t that what every team wants?
Are you a tough love leader? How do you build trust in your employees? Let us know in the comments below!
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2020 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.