Giving Feedback without Creating Fireworks

Happy July! This
month, I want to discuss helpful and appropriate feedback.  Giving frequent feedback—good and bad—is
important to the growth of your employees. Many employers unfortunately wait
until the end-of-the-year reviews to consider successes and failures. I imagine
that one of the main reasons for why people do not give regular feedback is
that they become anxious about employees’ responses. If this is one of that
factors that prevents you from offering frequent input, then let me offer the
following tips to you to help create a positive environment.
First,
lead with questions. Often, employers start a review with the intent of
leading employees to seeing a situation from the employers’ perspective. This
can be met with defensiveness. A much more helpful approach is to be
transparent about your intentions. Further, approach the meeting with
curiosity, describing your observations and asking many questions about them.
When employees see that you are legitimately interested in them and their
perspective, then they are more likely to stay open and attentive.
Second,
create and follow an agenda.  No
one likes to walk into the dark. By providing a simple structure for the
meeting, you can calm anxieties about where the time together might lead. For
example, if you began by saying, “You are not in trouble for the situation, but
I would like to understand it and work together toward a solution,” then you
would appease anxiety. Another benefit of an agenda is that it helps the
meeting to remain on track and to stay efficient.
Third, ask employees
how they would prefer to receive your feedback
.
Some people would prefer to hear negative feedback first; others might prefer
to start with the positive. This gives some of the control of the meeting to
the employee. The main benefit of approaching feedback in this way is that it
shows the employee that you are genuinely concerned with understanding and
improving.
Fourth,
don’t let others stay anonymous.  Nothing
erodes a culture like a triangle of communication.  “He did this” or “She did that”.  If you have a concern or an issue talk about
it and if you have a team member that comes to you with negative feedback don’t
protect them with anonymity.  If you
really want to frustrate someone or get them defensive, tell then about
concerns that others have about them but that you can’t share who shared the
feedback.
Lastly, be as direct
as possible
. You do not need small-talk or
introductions that meander. Be as straightforward as you can be about the
purpose of the meeting and its possible outcomes. This of course requires that
you be thoroughly prepared before the meeting; you cannot enter the meeting
with only a vague sense of the situation.
I will end with the 3
B’s of Presenting: “Be Bold, Be Bright and Be Gone.” The tips I’ve shared here
might feel counterintuitive to some of you; you think that being direct and
efficient would actually be more likely to cause tension. But employees want to
know that you are willing to share with them exactly what’s going on and what to
do going forward. If you follow these tips, you’ll keep many matches from
becoming forest fires.

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