News & Insight
June 2003

Your Career Path to Success The Challenge of Being a Good Mirror

Bill Morin<br />Chairman & CEO<br />WJM Associates

You won't find it in any management textbooks, but one of the most important roles that managers play is to serve as a mirror to the people they supervise.

What is a mirror? A boss who give honest, objective feedback to subordinates while counseling them on developmental or corrective issues of behavior or performance.

Change is usually a slow process and doesn't happen in a linear fashion. It's three steps forward, one step back. Most people have difficulty being objective about their own growth and progress. If people know the truth about themselves and their performance, they are in a position to do something positive about it. Your observations are the raw data from which you will reflect and guide people as they strive to change and grow.

People need a lot of mirroring and encouragement as they go about the arduous task of changing habits and building new skills. Being a good mirror isn't easy, because it means you have to get yourself out of the way. The more you mirror and the less you judge, the more the person will trust you and the more open he or she will be.

Remember, a mirror tells it like it is without any distortion. It simply reflects back what is. Just as you may not always like what you see when you look in the mirror, people may not always like what you reflect back to them, regardless of how objective you are or how well intended.

If you consistently give constructive feedback that is meaningful, most people will eventually change and thank you. As a manager, it is one of the most significant, long-lasting gifts you can give your staff. Whether they realize it or not, most people are hungry for the truth about themselves and their performance.

The key to being a successful mirror is to be specific in your observations and your feedback. Exactly what did Joe do that was off-putting? What was his tone of voice? What was his body language like? By noting specific actions and relating them in detail, you stand a better chance of fostering change.

What you are looking for are coachable moments, situations that offer you on-the-job opportunities to teach people something relevant to their developmental goals. Each day affords dozens of such moments. Make the most of them in your role as a mirror.

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