Mentor and Coach


Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Mentor and Coach

A New Word:

Back in 2005, during a leadership training class, I heard a new word, “Carefrontational.” I thought, “Wow! What a great word.” Very little further explanation was given. The instructor just used the word and knew we’d understand what was meant.

I’m sure it is also apparent to you as well. Just in case, what we mean is that as leaders, we will confront inappropriate behavior, lack of performance, or learning opportunity without hesitation. And, we will do that with compassion and care. So, the concatenation of caring and confrontational yields Carefrontational.

That training session back in 2005 spent a great deal of time around emotional intelligence, caring, compassion and communication. Interestingly, that is a theme that continues in the leadership training to this day.


As you would expect, being carefrontational requires an environment built on trust. If I believe you have my best interest at heart, I will be able to hear the carefrontational discussion productively.

If I’m in a safe environment, then I know that an honest mistake is a learning experience rather than a termination event. Most growth mindset employees will look forward to honest feedback about their performance. Fixed mindset employees may need a bit more care in navigating them through the person versus actions/behavior maze. Either way, these conversations must be timely.


It’s always important to give feedback — positive or negative — in a timely fashion. That is why there is a trend to do away with the annual performance review. What good is it to wait for a whole year to correct or appreciate our employees? That is and always has been a bit ridiculous. I think it was born out of a need to justify salary increases or lack thereof. Still, it’s very ill-advised to wait for feedback or dredge up history. So disconnecting performance feedback and salary discussion is also a trend.


This all fits well with the need to hold people accountable. As a leader, I hold myself and my team accountable. And, carefrontational conversations allow us to do just that without creating a culture of fear.

I am going back to the growth mindset for a minute. In that mindset, accountability is welcomed. Knowing that I’m going to be held accountable means, I will put in my best effort to achieve the desired outcome. If I don’t realize that outcome, I will not blame others or the environment. Instead, I will look to learn from the failure and try harder. So, how do we bring this all together?

Last Thoughts

We know that one of the more essential leadership characteristics is to be relatively high in emotional intelligence. So, carefrontational conversations should be the norm for an enlightened leader. And in my experience, that is indeed the case.

I’m told that knowledge workers need three things to be fully engaged: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose (Daniel Pink — Drive). Carefrontational conversations support continued individual growth (Mastery) as well as allowing for growing employee autonomy. These tough conversations can only take place in a culture that is safe, lives out the stated organization values, and provides a precise alignment with the purpose or vision.