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Leadership Word of the Day: DISAPPOINTED

By | Ed Batista |

A common scenario in my practice is the leader who’s unhappy with an employee’s performance or a team’s results and is struggling to find the right way to express their discontent. This generally isn’t the leader’s immediate response to a lack of progress or outright failure–my clients are aware that starting with curiosity and empathy helps employees overcome obstacles and deal with setbacks most effectively. [1] But even the most patient leader eventually gets upset or angry–and yet merely venting these emotions will be cathartic in the moment and counter-productive in the long run. So what can be done?

I’ve written extensively on how to deliver critical feedback [2], and in this context there’s one specific word that I encourage leaders to bear in mind: disappointed. When a leader feels compelled to speak up in these situations, rather than expressing frustration or impatience–essentially watered-down forms of anger–it’s often more effective to simply say, “I’m disappointed.” Why is this such a useful way for a leader to convey unhappiness? And why is it preferable to expressing frustration or impatience?

Emotions are Attention Magnets [3]

A primary function emotions serve is to alert us to potential opportunities and threats and to orient our attention accordingly. We may experience this as an unwelcome distraction, particularly if the emotional trigger is unpleasant, but that’s the point, as the late psychologist Daniel Wegner noted,

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