“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams implied that great leaders strive to make each of their team members better at what they do. This does not happen by magical words or project osmosis. It happens through feedback. As such, a great leader spends time learning how to give feedback that is effective. To give feedback well requires specific planning, tactful execution and purposeful follow-up.
Before the feedback meeting, ask and answer these questions:
What is my intention? While thinking through this, you may discover that you want your employee to feel bad and guilty. If that is your aim, the results of your meeting may be dismissal of the employee or them quitting. Instead, take time to establish exactly what your intention is for your meeting.
What impact do I want to have on my team member? Think about this and again, be specific. Do you want your employee to improve because of this interaction? Or do you want them to feel they were wrong? Your attitude about intentions and impact will influence the way you talk to your employee as well as the result of the meeting.
What exactly am I going to say? Plan your words. Write them down. Have notes with you that back up the points you want to make. If your communication is clear and to the point, your team member will not leave with any misunderstanding of what you expect in the future.
During the feedback meeting, make sure you:
Use many more positive comments than negative. You want to encourage your employee to grow and improve. To ensure that result, intentionally use positive statements about their work more than negative. It is impossible to have a fair review of someone’s performance without stating an area for improvement so they know what to focus on in cultivating the right kinds of skills. If those comments are sandwiched between other positive reinforcements, your employee will be more motivated to improve.
Be specific. Don’t speak in generalities. Instead, give specific examples. Refrain from using the words “never” or “always”. Don’t tell someone they are late in turning in assignments. Instead, give a specific instance. The same goes for praise. Don’t tell your team member they are encouraging to the team effort. Give a specific example of when they were encouraging.
Tie Actions to Consequences. Recently, Andrew Parker, director of marketing and communications for Zenger Folkman, gave an excellent example of how to tie actions to consequences during feedback. He writes:
When delivering tough feedback, many folks don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. The best way to do this is to review how their actions led to a specific consequence and not insult their intelligence, competence or otherwise. Case in point: I had a boss tell me one time that because I had failed to review my work with him before sending it on to a client, I provided something substandard and the client was displeased with our work. He never called me dumb, stupid or clueless. He demonstrated how my actions had led to this outcome. Then, he followed up with several kind comments about things I was doing well and that I need to work in this one area to improve. After that, I never had a problem—and I never felt bitter to my boss about that conversation.
Making the connection between actions and consequences can help your employee improve in their job and give you a specific and non-threatening way to convey areas where they need improving.
End your feedback meeting with a plan of action. Ask your employee to come up with ideas for his improvement in a given area. In your plan of action, have your employee do a few specific tasks in a specific amount of time. Following up in this way will ensure that the feedback you gave has not fallen on deaf ears.
Feedback can be a vital tool for you as a leader. Learn how to give it well and inspire your team members to dream, learn, do and become more.