Guest Post: “How To Tackle Tough Love” by John Manning

share_02How to Tackle Tough Love

Throughout my career, I’ve received all kinds of feedback about my performance, strengths and weaknesses, and leadership abilities. But sometimes the feedback stung like a bee, particularly if it came from someone I trusted.

Like me, you may have experienced this same sting of “tough love,” too. It’s that feeling you get when someone hits you with a hard truth about something you need to fix—a reality that bites because you didn’t want to face it or simply didn’t know you had an issue in the first place. But this kind of tough love is a gift.

Whether it’s a much-needed reality-check or a light on your blind spot, it can be a catalyst for advantageous, powerful change.  As a leader, discipline yourself to take it seriously. Welcome this kind of tough love, understanding that not only is such feedback “The Breakfast of Champions,” but it also gives you the opportunity to change and grow. Then, be grateful to that trusted individual who cared enough and took a risk in giving you that vital truth.

promo_02Here are three simple steps to improve your odds of leveraging tough love and truth:

  1. Listen to the message. You likely know there’s a difference between hearing someone and truly listening to what they have to say. When someone you trust takes the time or makes the effort to tell you the truth, be fully present, drop your defenses, and focus on what that person is communicating while remaining open-minded.
  1. Clarify unknowns and ambiguity. If you notice yourself resisting or not fully believing the message, you likely need to understand more about it. So always ask the person giving you the tough-love feedback to tell you more and/or explain why they are sharing this information with you. For instance, if someone you trust says you’re not meeting expectations as a sales manager, you may believe that person is just talking about “numbers.” However, in asking questions, digging deeper to uncover what’s at the root of the feedback, you may find it’s more about how you’re managing time, client relations, or communication with others on the sales team—all of which are specific, useful bits of information against which you take the right corrective actions.
  1. Demonstrate gratitude. When learning a cold, hard truth, it can be tempting to want to “shoot the messenger”—but don’t! Instead, make the conscientious choice to push beyond any pain and perceive truth as an opportunity to transform your leadership for the better. Whenever someone gives you a good dose of tough love, thank that person. What’s more, after you’ve taken that feedback to heart and made some vital changes, let that trusted person know that their feedback was not in vain but valued. This will reinforce your efforts to remain accountable to personal growth and give that advisor a sense of satisfaction in knowing they genuinely helped.

When has “tough love” strengthened your leadership?

Originally published April 20, 2015

promo_01John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), and author of The Disciplined Leader – now available on Amazon. Learn more about his work at, or connect with him on Twitter @JohnMManning.