Tired of playing the bad guy? Why not play yourself instead....?

By Karen Amos

‘I’m not scared of playing the bad guy’.

I hear this phrase so many times on my travels as a coach and I have to confess, I’ve said it myself in the past.

But let’s just unpick this for a moment. Why when we need to give negative feedback, or have a difficult conversation with someone, do we feel we’ve no option but to be the ‘Bad Guy’? Shouldn’t we just be doing what’s right? I know from my own experience that there are many reasons for saying this phrase.

Here are a couple:
1. Fear – Of what the other person might do or say, or of things getting out of control. Sometimes it’s the fear of not being liked.
2. Lack of options – Often I felt low on resources – either of potential solutions to the problem, or lack of interpersonal skills to deal with this.

The worst part of this was for me, I know I’m not a ‘Bad Guy’. I now recognise I’m a good, kind person, who likes to be fair to others and always tries to do the right thing.  This is most of us right?

This situation is a good example of where Authenticity pays dividends. What if you didn’t need to be the ‘Bad Guy’ and could instead, get the right result just by being yourself? Sounds good? Just think, less anxiety, sleeping well, knowing you did your best, increased personal responsibility for the other person and less of the ‘blame game’…. The list goes on…..

The secret is to take a coaching approach to giving feedback and difficult conversations. This approach means you’re not there to ‘fix’ the person, but to work collaboratively with them to find a workable solution. The first step is to be clear what you and they want out of the situation and to work together to find the solution.

Yes, I acknowledge there may be occasions where the person concerned refuses to accept their personal responsibility and you’ll have to deal with this accordingly, but from experience these people are in the minority.

By implementing this Authentic Leadership/coaching approach, I've found that raising issues with people more often than not, results in a positive, constructive outcome. I frequently hear examples from my clients where they've been dreading a conversation, but by implementing this approach have had surprisingly positive outcomes.  For example, people who have been placed on performance management have still thanked their manager for their support and as a result have addressed and resolved the issues raised.

No-one likes giving negative feedback and certainly no-one likes to receive it, but to know you’ve truly done your best to work with the person to find a positive solution to the problem must surely rest better with you than having had to play the ‘Bad Guy’ again.

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.