The Three Minute Challenge: Topical Training Investments for Teacher Leaders — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

The Three Minute Challenge: Topical Training Investments for Teacher Leaders — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

Plan for Success

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Putting It All Together

In the world of culinary arts, there exists a fascinating, even mysterious, concept called “umami.” Although commonly referred to as one of the five basic tastes, characterizing this way doesn’t do it justice. Umami, which is the Japanese word for deliciousness, refers to the savoriness often found in many foods.

Umami is a substance perfectly formed to create an explosion of taste. When we think of growing and developing leaders, we are searching for a similar substance that will transform the ordinary into the extraordinary–a unique blend of experiences, training, reflection, and development to help leaders become effective regardless of their situation. Throughout this month, we’ve identified the key practices for developing teacher leaders. Great school administrators know that they cannot be successful without a core group of strong, instructionally gifted, teachers who are also leaders.

We began the month by establishing the proper foundation necessary for our teacher leaders to grow, which consists of exposure to universal principles for the novice person. The fact is that every school leadership team should be doing an ongoing book study. In our second step of development we increased the sophistication of the training through specialized, experiential training. In this quadrant, the teacher leader is still a novice, but the training is very specific, such as joining a school-based team to do instructional rounds. The third quadrant is where the teacher leader develops through learning practical skills. Much of this quadrant hones in on self-development through feedback. In our model, we distinguish the difference between the skill level of the person and their learning needs regarding specialized training and specific concepts. We do so because education is a people business–influential leaders masterfully navigate both the people and the issues. This brings us to the fourth quadrant.

Becoming the Expert

Because we are pursuing umami–the perfect blend of seasoning that delivers the greatest satisfaction and results–teacher leaders need to “graduate” to the fourth quadrant, which is topical. So many of the issues faced by leaders are multi-dimensional with long tentacles and significant implications. Development within this quadrant demonstrates that the teacher leader is truly in charge–leading an initiative or department, making a real change in the school, and focusing on the people involved.

The training in this quadrant mirrors the complexity of the problem and the challenges associated with it. A great example of a complex change that we often make is through a restructuring or modification to a curriculum based on new standards. But, the truth is that even when standards change and the curriculum and assessments follow suit, that doesn’t mean that changes will be made at the classroom level. Policies don’t change practice; people do.

The skilled teacher leader, in our example, understands the team dynamics at various levels, communicates with administration, knows the standards, can lead changes to the curriculum, and, most importantly, empowers teachers to make the necessary strategy adjustments in the classroom. They are experts in both the teaching side and the leadership side of the equation. They know how to do the work and how to influence the group they lead. Great principals know that both skills are necessary and they develop the specialized topical needs of their teacher leaders. Take The Three Minute Challenge:

The Three Minute Challenge


  1. Evaluate the depth and rigor of the training that you are providing your teacher leaders as a group. This should mostly fall within the foundational quadrant. But, because they are confronting and solving real issues that require a keen understanding of the problem and the people involved, they also need topical training. Identify one of the leadership topics where each of your leaders needs more development. Make a list of the topics.
  2. Find a leadership conference, local or nationally, that has strands that address the topics you listed. You may be able to send your whole leadership team or budget to send them in groups of twos and threes. The key is that the conference is not a typical teaching conference but an actual leadership conference.  
  3. After folks have gone to their training on the specific topic, create a check-in calendar that establishes a clear timeline to evaluate practice and progress for the teacher leaders. These meetings should focus on pre-identified short-term goals that represent essential progress toward the desired outcome. The outcomes can be based on the change they seek to influence or a detail about how they are leading differently because they’ve been trained. Your job is to listen and provide feedback.

Technical Tip: Teacher leaders are teachers first. Their influence is born from their credibility and prowess in the classroom. As they continually develop as a leader, be sure that they are still enjoying what they love to do most—teaching! Although their role has grown considerably as leaders, their strengths remain within their love for teaching and learning. Not only do they need to grow as leaders, they need to continue to grow as teachers. The tip is to ensure that your teacher leaders are getting the leadership development necessary to lead better but also the teacher professional development to grow as teachers. Use the leadership continuum model as a teacher skill development model. Listen to what your teacher leaders want to learn next as teachers and find them the path to do that.

Leadership Continuum Model

Leadership Development Continuum Model

Reach out and share your story with us.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

The Three Minute Challenge: Practical Learning & Feedback Cycles for Teacher Leaders — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

The Three Minute Challenge: Practical Learning & Feedback Cycles for Teacher Leaders — #TheThreeMinuteChallenge

The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action. ~ Herbert Spencer

From Novice to Expert

When we think of great leaders, we often think of someone we know or someone who we have read about or studied. For us, the greats, like Lincoln, quickly come to mind. It’s easy to think of his influence, key characteristics, and noble qualities, which set him apart from so many others who have led from the same office. We know, though, that titles and degrees don’t make leaders, and experience alone is not a great teacher. Understanding theory, contemplating concepts, and even studying situations doesn’t compare to being fully immersed in practical experiences. Yes, these growth activities are great for the novice leader and will help her to lead with more efficacy, but there’s no substitute for practicing a specific skill and taking the opportunity to learn from the experience, gain valuable feedback, and set a course toward mastery. As the adage says: “one hour in the field is comparable to twenty hours in the classroom.” We may think of Lincoln as an expert leader, but he, too, was once a novice.

Practicing to Lead Better

Leadership is a multidimensional skill that takes significant practice to get better. One of the most frustrating things is that even as you begin to master one aspect, another area quickly reveals itself as a weakness. It’s the humble and reflective leader who grows and learns from all situations, continually evolving as they work toward being highly effective.

This month we are totally focused on developing teacher leaders, who are critical to the success of any school. But, just because they are excellent classroom teachers, does not mean that we can assume that the skills that make them a terrific teacher translate into sound leadership strengths. Although they may put considerable effort into leading their department or a school-wide initiative, teacher leaders often don’t get enough feedback on how well they are leading. Teacher leadership teams are a widely used practice for managing change initiatives and special projects in schools, but too often they are not supported in their growth as leaders.

Teacher Leader Training

When we think about teacher leaders and training, we need to separate and distinguish actual leadership skills versus pedagogical expertise. For example, our math department chair needs to be a master within the domains of curriculum, instruction, and assessment and must also possess the ability to skillfully lead a department. Real teacher leadership goes well beyond ordering supplies and delivering messages from the principal. Great teacher leaders know how to skillfully address teacher and student needs, review data, and drive a course of action aligned to the vision and mission of the school.

This dynamic role requires them to receive cycles of coaching and direct feedback as they learn to lead better and grow faster. They simply cannot become an expert without targeted, well-developed training, based on the practical experiences they encounter in their roles.

Take the following challenge to support your teacher leaders and their growth in a specific area of practice:

The Three Minute Challenge


  1. Identify a specific leadership competency that you would like to support for your leadership team or a specific leader on the team. Review the skill at an upcoming leadership team or face-to-face one-on-one meeting. Be sure to discuss what it looks like in action. 
  2. Schedule a time to visit a department meeting that one of your teacher leaders is running. Be prepared to observe the leader practicing the skills you discussed. Take note of what they do well for specific praise. You want to focus on strengths before making any corrections or recommendations. Note one nuance that could help the leader to hone their skills to be better for the next meeting. 
  3. Continue the cycle. One-and-done feedback sessions aren’t typically enough for real change to occur. Keep your teacher leaders on a cycle of feedback just as you would with feedback for your teachers regarding their classroom practices. As you support their strengths and provide critiques to their methods, follow up on those specific recommendations so that you’re seeing the results in action over time.

Technical Tip: When identifying leadership skills to bolster, use a set of teacher leadership standards. You can, of course, use the skills you’re discussing in your book study, but there are leadership standards, and standards specific to teacher leaders that you can reference with ease.

Leadership Continuum Model

Leadership Development Continuum Model


Reach out and share your story with us.

Stay tuned for more challenges, reflection questions, leadership models, podcasts, and more by following It’s our job to curate, synthesize, and communicate so that you can lead better and grow faster. In a world plagued by nothing but noise, we help you by getting to simple.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

One Thing Series: Everyday Feedback w/ Anna Carroll, @annacarrollMSSW — #onethingseries

One Thing Series: Everyday Feedback w/ Anna Carroll, @annacarrollMSSW — #onethingseries

Don’t miss this leadership podcast with Anna Carroll.

Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an author, executive coach, and speaker. She helps leaders and professionals speed up their cycles of successful leadership, feedback, and results.

Anna graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, including a year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study the social aspects of computing. She received her MSSW degree from University of Texas at Austin with a focus on human behavior, influence, conformity, and how change does and doesn’t happen. She founded Interaction Design, Inc. in 1990 to facilitate organizational improvement projects and design and lead structured interactive training. She received her Licensed Professional Coach certification in 2013 from the Coaches Training Institute. 

Her clients include Austin Regional Clinic, eBay, Engagio, Fandango, Horseshoe Bay Resort, NES Global Talent, PayPal, and Zimmer-Biomet. She has spoken recently at Microsoft, the Texas Conference for Women, and the Society for Human Resource Management, to name only a few.

Carroll wrote The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success (River Grove Press, 2013) and The Everyday Feedback Workbook: How to Use the Everyday Feedback Method with Your Team (Ingram-Sparks, 2015) and conducts training for how to give and receive helpful, transparent feedback. An important quality of her “everyday feedback” approach is lowering stress and building great relationships along the way. She is passionate about researching future workplace trends and exploring the brain science and psychological factors that are key to making great feedback happen. She is currently writing a book about surprising insights regarding good and bad feedback in organizations.

She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Michael Wilkes and loves world music, cities, and great conversations.

Her interview with TheSchoolHouse302 cuts straight to the heart of what we value and believe in for organizational growth, which is quality feedback.

  • Listen to what she says about organizational dynamics and how leaders often handle tough conversations. She talks about what is often ignored yet we complain about it and still expect improvements to occur.
  • She acknowledges that much of the feedback conversation is steeped in brain research and the NueroLeadership Institute is leading the way.
  • You can’t miss what she says about how she learned under duress. We can all benefit from her story. Don’t miss this part.
  • She’s the third person to bring up Tango on our One Thing Series. The beauty is in why!
  • Anna’s thoughts on luck, excellent performances, and solutions are thought-provoking, to say the least.
  • You can’t miss what she used to believe. It’s something we typically think regarding success but she challenges the notion! Most importantly, she reminds us to Stay Calm & Try Things!

Anna’s interview uncovers some of the dysfunctional behaviors common in many organizations. She calls out the typical reactions to feedback as ineffective and provides simple ways to work through them. What really resonates with us is that feedback is the key to improvement. Her experience and wisdom provide insight for leaders to create an environment where feedback is the norm. Be sure to listen and share so that we can all learn to address tough issues through difficult conversations.

Please follow, like, and comment. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow

You can find our One Thing Series on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Joe & T.J.

Feedback: Growing Your Teacher Leaders Using a Leadership Development Continuum Model — #SH302

Feedback: Growing Your Teacher Leaders Using a Leadership Development Continuum Model — #SH302


True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. ~ Daniel Kahneman

Dave is a Teacher Leader

The whole meeting lasted only seventeen minutes, but it felt like three rounds in a cage fight. No, I wasn’t bloody or bruised, I wasn’t even out of breath. I was overheating, and I could feel my pulse in my temples. What’s amazing is that my visceral reaction was over just a few points that I needed to make about Dave’s leadership and his last department meeting, “Dave, this meeting needed a stronger agenda to keep everyone on task…”

Teacher Leaders Need Feedback 

The fact is that providing leadership training and feedback to help teacher leaders grow is challenging. Many would argue that giving feedback is actually more difficult than receiving it, and many supervisors struggle to give quality feedback on lesson delivery, let alone teacher leadership.

But, great administrators know where their people are on the leadership development continuum, and they tailor professional development accordingly. Because the idea of growth is often nebulous, it can be reduced to traits and skills that are critical to be an effective leader, but are not always organized and taught in a systematic fashion. As a result, many individuals never fully develop into great leaders. When developing teacher leaders, it is vital to identify the proven leadership qualities and skills that each person must possess, to evaluate their levels in each of the areas, and to then tailor their leadership development to meet their needs. Teacher leaders are typically selected because of their teaching skills, not necessarily their leadership abilities, which means that we must focus on them if they’re going to be effective in the role.

This process of development highlights the differences between a beginner, intermediate, and expert leader, which allows for competency development to occur on a continuum. Great leaders differentiate professional development experiences for their people so as to target their specific needs. General leadership training is fine for novice leaders, but as each person on the team learns and grows, she needs refined teaching to hone and sharpen specific skills.

That’s why we provide the Leadership Development Continuum Model. It allows leaders to differentiate the four types of training that teacher leaders need as they grow from novice to expert. 

Leadership Development Continuum Model 

Leadership Development Continuum Model



Four Types of Leadership Development 

Foundational: The first level of leadership development is simply foundational. If teacher leaders are getting any type of leadership training, it’s usually at this level. This type of training is universal, which means it will benefit everyone on the team. Example: Book studies.

Key Success Driver: The key to foundational training for teacher leaders is to make sure that it’s on the agenda for every meeting. If 30-50% of your leadership team meetings aren’t spent on leadership development, the rest of the time you spend on initiatives and programs is wasted.

Experiential: The next level of training is far more specialized. Experiential leadership training is designed to provide teacher leaders with job-embedded learning. Most teacher leaders are still spending the majority of their time in the classroom with their “leadership” time during planning periods and after school. Experiential training is the first step to breaking down the barriers of isolation for teachers to learn and lead outside of the classroom walls. Example: Instructional rounds with administrators, specialists, or coaches to include feedback conversation thereafter.

Key Success Driver: The key to experiential leadership development is for the teacher leader to be an eye-witness to the problems-of-practice and challenges that teachers and students face. We must bring the teacher leader to the table to discuss theories-of-action and next steps regarding professional development and feedback for the staff. Providing time outside of the classroom is key for teacher leaders to gain perspective as they learn and grow.

Practical: This level of leadership development is geared more toward an advanced or advancing teacher leader. It’s still universal enough in that it can be done within the school, but it’s definitely specific to the person and not just the position they hold. Practical leadership development always involves a coach or supervisor who conducts a focused observation and then provides direct feedback to the teacher. Example: Feedback after observing a department meeting.

Key Success Driver: Typically, when we think of observation and feedback cycles in schools, we focus on instruction, instructional delivery, and planning. But, for leaders to grow, like any other area of skill development, they need feedback. The key is for the coach (outside consultant or administrator) to observe the teacher “leading” and then provide specific written and/or verbal feedback on a predetermined leadership skills (such as clear communication).

Topical: The most advanced leadership development scenario on the continuum is for leaders to attend a session at a conference (or other off-site seminar) on a topic that is specific to her developmental needs. This type of training is reserved for an expert leader who needs specialized training in something that cannot be delivered within the school or district. Example: Attend a restorative practice conference.

Key Success Driver: The key to this level of leadership development is not just that it’s off-site; the conference, course, or seminar must be specific to the needs of the leader or the school. Too often, when we send our teachers to conferences, we don’t provide a specific focus or strand for them to target. And, we generally send teachers to “teaching conferences.” In this case, we’re sending the teacher leader to a leadership conference or seminar with a specific focus on one aspect of their leadership development or expert knowledge that they need in their role.

That’s this month’s model for teacher leadership development. Remember, teacher leaders need training to be at their best, and that happens within the continuum of leadership development. Stay tuned for challenges, nuggets of wisdom, reflection questions, and more. Follow us at to join thousands of others who get alerts, resources, podcasts, and more.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

Our newest book is available on Amazon. We can’t wait to hear what you think. Click the cover and order your copy today. Thank you for the support.



#5thSunday: Year-End Reflection Infographic–R.E.F.L.E.C.T.

#5thSunday: Year-End Reflection Infographic–R.E.F.L.E.C.T.

Every month at TheSchoolHouse302, you get a blog post with a leadership development model, a podcast with a leading expert, a “read this” with three book selections, and a review and reflection tool–all on a particular topic of leadership to help you lead better and grow faster. Posts are always blasted out on Sundays so that leaders can think and prepare for the week ahead. In months when we have 5 Sundays, we also provide an infographic to help visualize and solidify the concept. This month, as we end our year, we want to R.E.F.L.E.C.T. on several powerful concepts to propel our success into the future of 2019. We hope you enjoy and Happy New Year. R.E.F.L.E.C.T._Infographic As always, please like, follow, and comment. If you have topics of interest, guests you want us to interview, or books that we should read and recommend, please let us know that as well. Joe & T.J.
#SH302: The Five Cs of Professional Dialogue: Taking the Fear Out of Giving Feedback

#SH302: The Five Cs of Professional Dialogue: Taking the Fear Out of Giving Feedback


A culture of excellence requires time, commitment, and ongoing care. To cultivate excellence, it must be rooted in professional dialogue to launch and sustain your organization’s growth and development, which requires employees to be engaged. Unfortunately, employee engagement remains an issue in the workplace with poor communication being one of the main culprits. One Gallup study of “7,272 U.S. adults revealed that one in two had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career” (Harter & Adkins, 2015). Too often “people sense that they [are] missing needed information, [and] they blame lack of communication for the problem” (Markman, 2017). The fact is that proper communication and professional dialogue rest at the heart of every great organization’s infrastructure.

How an organization communicates to deal with the realities facing them will be the basis for either growth, stagnation, or eventual failure. The problem is not normally information sharing or access but rather how well we communicate with one another that makes the difference. To create a culture where communication is woven into the fabric of the organization, we’ve developed a five-part model to guide leaders and to ensure that poor communication doesn’t sink their best efforts.

5Cs of Communication

Everyone Loves Samantha, But…

Samantha possesses the interpersonal skills and positive attitude that everyone loves in a coworker, yet, at times, she can pose issues with behaviors that hinder the team and get in the way of productivity and the team’s output. Her technical competency and depth of knowledge are good, but she has tendency to talk by the “water cooler” a little too long and can easily derail a meeting with an off putting joke or misplaced story. The difficult thing about Samantha is that her strengths, at times, become her weaknesses; her team perceives her more as a tension eliminator versus a problem solver.

The biggest issue for Dan, her manager, is that he wants to talk to her to get her to balance her levity and off-task tendencies with her potential for substantial contributions. She is certainly loved by her peers, and so Dan fears that a conversation with her about this will shut her down and alienate other team members who may be used in the examples that Dan has to demonstrate the problems. At the end of the day, he struggles with whether or not the conversation is even worth it. Samantha brings humor and laughter to the meetings, she gets her work done, but Dan and the team need more than that from Samantha.

What Should Dan do?

We would love the situation to be straightforward, suggesting that a simple conversation will do the trick, but we know that growth and development take time and resourcefulness on the part of any leader. Samantha is loved by her co-workers, and she possesses a vibrant energy. In the end, we need to ensure that Samantha is clear about the needed changes, that she recognizes her need to grow, and that the terms and conditions are agreeable. Not only is Samantha’s attitude toward growing critical to her success, it’s pivotal for the organization’s culture and the support that ensues when people are ready to make needed changes.

Dan needs to be straightforward with Samantha and any waiting to communicate will only exacerbate the problem. He needs to address her behaviors as soon as possible. He also needs to be clear about the fact that her strength is her ability to provide a positive energy and that her potential as a contributor is clear but that her off task comments can stress the team in times when she thinks she’s lightening the load.

Dan has to be candid, confronting reality with expectations and timelines. He can’t sugarcoat the situation or it will be misunderstood. Managers have a distinct need to demonstrate that they are in their employees’ “corner,” establishing and systematizing professional dialogue in the workplace, but with candor at the same time. The notion is that leaders care so much that they can tell you what you don’t want to hear in a way that balances the need to communicate a problem with the nurture and support to help make the changes together.

Communication is Often Counter-intuitive

As leaders, it’s critical that we focus on growth. We have to do what it takes for our team and for ourselves to develop over time. This means that organizations have to put core values at the center of every decision. If a core value is professional growth and personal development, then feedback and dialogue are critical drivers for performance. One step in keeping the norms at the forefront is in setting clear norms for communication and understanding the pitfalls in what we think we said and what we think we heard from others.

These norms have to be established within the culture and modeled by the leader. There are three critical norms that the leader must set, holding everyone accountable to the way that communication takes place:

  1. Accept the norm that feedback is candid and welcomed by all.
  2. Accept the norm that feedback is frequent and meant to drive positive changes in performance.
  3. Accept the norm that we must review and reflect on what we’re writing and saying to one another on a regular basis so that the quality of our feedback improves.

This means that all dialogue considers the balance between communicating clearly because of our position in the team’s corner and our care for the people. In the center of clear communication and compassion for the people is always the candor it takes to help them get better.

We know that some conversations can be difficult. Particularly, with individuals who contribute positively but who also have flaws that need to be addressed, communicating can be excruciating. This is precisely why leaders need to create a culture of candor and compassion with feedback at the core. But before we fully introduce a model for crystal clear communication and professional dialogue, we need to address a common assumption about the lack of information sharing in any organization. As Judith Glaser, an organizational anthropologist and author of Conversation Intelligence, reminded us in our #onethingseries podcast interview (coming up this month): “our words create worlds” and “we often don’t say what we really mean.”

The Assumption: Information is the Solution

Too often, when communication is pinned as the culprit, we jump to conclusions that there’s a lack of information sharing in our organization. Folks even say things like “had I known…” or “no one shared that with me…” And, as leaders, we tend to believe that “greater access to information is the solution” (Markman, 2017) so we develop stronger methods for communicating, like newsletters and bulletins. But more or different communication channels are not likely the answer because procedures for communicating aren’t usually the problem. It’s more likely to be the way we communicate, how we interact with people, than if we are communicating. You can eliminate the fear of providing feedback by using these 5Cs of professional dialogue.

5Cs of Communication

The 5Cs of Professional Dialogue

Be a Communicator: Are your organization’s goals communicated well enough to use in a conversation regarding performance?

The first C is to be a communicator in the first place. Too many leaders fail to communicate, and that’s simply not acceptable. The bottom line is that strong communication is grounded in the mission, vision, and goals of the organization. Leaders must over-communicate the purpose and meaning behind the work. If you haven’t communicated the goals of your organization often enough to hold others accountable to them then they might as well not exist. Dan should be able to use the department’s goals to demonstrate a performance gap for Samantha. If he can’t, the goals for her performance aren’t clear enough.

Be Clear: Is your feedback clear enough for others to take action?

Achieving clarity around the goals and values is the backdrop for quality feedback concerning an individual’s personal actions or a team’s accomplishments. This type of clarity with communication allows for all professional dialogue about performance to be more objective. In the case of Samantha, it means pointing out her strengths and weaknesses based on pre-defined organizational expectations, which are not the arbitrary personal standards of the supervisor. Remember that this means two things: 1. the mission, vision, and goals have been communicated and 2. that the feedback is clearly tied to them. Too often, we fall into the trap of assuming that the goals are clear when they’re not or we give feedback that isn’t clearly linked to the goals. In either case, we’re not communicating clearly and subsequent improvements won’t be made.

Be Candid: Is your feedback specific, candid, two-way, and ongoing?

The third C is candor. Being candid while maintaining a two-way, open dialogue, requires serious skill. It also requires a high degree of competence with the aspects of Samantha’s performance that you’re addressing. Too often, candor has a negative connotation because it is associated with a difficult message or with a frankness that’s too abrupt.  We maintain that candor is simply direct and specific feedback, which everyone needs, and should be presented in a manner that is designed to be open and honest. In an interview with one of the greatest boxing trainers ever, Angelo Dundee makes it clear why his relationship with Muhammed Ali was so successful: “I was always very honest with him. And him with me.”  Dundee recalls how he could simply mention how Ali’s jab looked and how Ali would work on it until it was right. Embracing candor as the vehicle for improved performance builds a culture that accepts and expects feedback for improved performance. Candor also increases the speed of the desired improvements. It accounts for specificity with the needed changes versus the flowery and ambiguous feedback that leaders sometimes provide in an effort to “be nice.”

Be in their Corner: Does your feedback communicate that you’re in the person’s corner no matter what you’re saying?

The fourth C of our professional dialogue model is communicating that you’re in the corner of the person with whom you’re feedback is directed. People are not always going to like what you say, especially when it’s critical about an aspect of their performance at work, but they’ll be far more likely to accept the message if they know that you’re with them in their efforts to make improvements. Consider Samantha, the only way she’s going to get better is if someone points out her performance issues to her. She’ll likely respond in one of two ways: defensively, which is a result of her feeling alone in her efforts to improve or acceptance, which is the result of her feeling like the message is coming from someone who stands in her corner with support and resources. The difference looks like this:

  1. Samantha, you need to make some changes or we’re going to have to talk about an improvement plan for you.
  2. Samantha, you need to make some changes, and I’m here to support you with some strong advice and a few resources that can help. Let’s work together on this so that you can improve your performance and contribute on greater level, which I’m confident you can do.

The first example is almost an ultimatum, and sometimes people do need real documented improvement plans, but it leaves Samantha hanging out there alone versus the second example, which commands the same message but shows that the leader is there to help and not just to evaluate.

Be Caring: Do your words and actions demonstrate care for the people in your organization?

The fifth and final C in the professional dialogue model is demonstrating care. If the leader truly cares about the people in the organization and demonstrates care through actions and words, the people will be motivated and inspired to put forth effort and improve the quality of their performance through feedback. We can’t just want Samantha to improve for the sake of the organization. We have to care about Samantha–her personal needs, her sense of efficacy, and her feelings about the job she does–before we can spend any time enhancing her performance through critical feedback. Leaders who care do so with specific actions and words. Sinek metaphorically describes this by saying that “leaders eat last.” By eating last, providing food, making work fun, and uplifting others, leaders can demonstrate that they care about people.

If you communicate with people, you do so clearly, you employ candor, you demonstrate that you’re in their corner, and you show care, you’re leading in a way that should prevent any fear from giving feedback to the people on your team or in your organization. This type of professional dialogue is exactly what leaders need to propel their teams into the future. That’s our model for professional feedback, and we hope it helps you to lead better and grow faster.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, follow, or comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.


Gallup, Inc. (2015, April 08). Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers. Retrieved from

Markman, A. (2017). Poor communication is often a symptom of a different problem. Harvard Business Review.

Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. Penguin Group: New York.