Our job as leaders is to make our people, our teams and our organisations successful. In order to do this effectively, it is imperative that we help our people get better. Providing effective feedback is the most powerful tool we have in our toolkit to help us achieve this. Effective feedback identifies both the successful and the not so successful outcomes. We should celebrate the successes, reflect upon what made them so successful and how we can do more of this. We also need to reflect upon the not so successful outcomes and seek to understand why the results were not where we needed them to be and how we can avoid similar outcomes into the future. Most of all we need to convey to our people that we are on their side, seeking to help them get better and be more successful.
At Full Circle Feedback, the statistics from our thousands of 360 degree feedback surveys clearly suggest that there are very few leaders who really enjoy giving feedback and even less of us are effective at it. Yet it is the most powerful tool we have and it costs nothing more than our time and our energy. So how can we ensure that we get better at providing effective feedback in a manner that demonstrates our commitment to helping our people be more successful? A recent article I read suggests we should avoid three common phrases as part of our feedback vernacular. The article, 3 Mistakes You’re Making When You Give Constructive Feedback, by Kat Boogaard states that if we can avoid these three phrases, we will come across as a supportive leader rather than a smug and superior manager.
The three phrases we should seek to avoid are:
1 - You always….
How often do we say this and really mean on every single occasion, without exception, at all times? It is a word that we tend to overuse to describe what may be a frequent or a sometime occurrence. If we are truly focused on building the capabilities of our people and helping them get better then it is not helpful when we suggest a gap is evident very time they complete a task. So avoid the temptation to say ‘always’ as it is rarely the case and does not support your real intention.
2 - Everybody has noticed that….
So now not only are you telling your team member that they have not met your exceptions on every single occasion, you are now telling them that everybody has noticed it! Phrases such as this can make the person feel as though everyone is against them. The important thing to focus on, in these conversations, is what are the shortfalls and how can they be addressed. You must focus on enhancing the skills of your team member to ensure they can be successful into the future.
3 - If I were you….
They are not you. They work and think differently to you so there is little value in using such a phrase as part of a feedback conversation. Our job is to empower our people to build their own capabilities and we should do this through the use of coaching questions such as ’What were the circumstances that influenced you to take this action?’ or What would you do differently in the future?’. We empower our people by helping them arrive at the right answers, not by giving them our answers.
It is difficult enough for our people to hear feedback that suggests they are not meeting expectations, so we need to get skilled at delivering feedback that supports our intent of helping our people grow. We need to avoid phrases that can be seen as critical and condescending and encourage our people constructively to be involved in identifying ways that that can build their own capabilities. As John Mattone, a respected leadership author and speaker says ‘If you reject feedback, you also reject the choice of acting in a way that may bring you abundant successes. Help your people get better by choosing better phrases and creating an environment that focusses on constructive and informative feedback.’