Excerpted from Sara J. Moulton Reger's new book Lead & Succeed (Excel Books, 2009).

Correcting people is a necessary, although difficult, requirement for leaders. Correcting people the right way can increase productivity and morale. Correcting them the wrong way, however, can lead to ongoing issues with both relationships and results. The Bible shows leaders how to be both firm and merciful at the same time. Follow these examples, and you will be neither a wimp nor a tyrant in how you handle people when they need correction.

Correct With an Eye on the Future

Hebrews is a letter written to New Testament Jewish believers. Chapter 12 of Hebrews covers the important topic of giving and receiving correction.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. —Hebrews 12:5-11

It is difficult to correct others and natural to want to avoid confrontation and its backlash. Certainly, no one enjoys being corrected, and many people respond by becoming defensive, hostile, sullen, or depressed. But leaders need to put this into proper perspective. If we fail to give a deserved correction to someone due to fear of a negative reaction, then we are dodging a key responsibility of leadership. Conversely, we should always be ready to accept correction by those in authority over us. Choose to see correction—both giving and receiving it—as a necessary part of business life and a way for you to show respect for people and their long-term capabilities.

Live It

  • Acknowledge correcting people is an ongoing responsibility of leadership.
  • Check your motivation, and if you are correcting without genuine concern for a person's future, you need to examine what you are doing and why.
  • Check your emotions, and if you are overly emotional (for example, angry), use prayer to get yourself under control before taking action.
  • Acknowledge that giving correction is uncomfortable, and resist the temptation to wait, thinking it will be easier later.
  • Select the appropriate time to give correction—looking for a time when the recipient is most ready to receive it and has a chance to work through his or her own reactions.
  • Choose the place for correction, preferably somewhere private, and remember to remove distractions by turning off your phone, closing your door, and making sure you won't be disturbed.
  • Identify the problem and ask questions to give the person ample opportunity to give their perspective on what happened and why—and be willing to change your perspective about the situation if warranted.
  • Ask the person to repeat back your expectations—being sure to listen carefully and to clarify any misunderstandings.
  • Often during correction, people fail to listen effectively due to emotions, so be patient and repeat your expectations several times if necessary.
  • Set a time to follow up and review performance—being available to support the person's progress but avoiding the temptation to be too active in the work he or she must do.
  • Set a good example by constructively handling situations where you need to accept correction; it will increase your credibility and compassion.

See It