Give Them Feedback in a Way that Works

Last year, I read a blog on constructive feedback that had one of the most amazing comments by a reader that I’ve ever seen.  The blog post was good.  The comment was incredibly good.  Here’s what the reader said:

My father was a master at giving constructive feedback that I could “hear”.  He watched for things I did, and then commented that “I noticed you did X, Y and Z to solve that problem and they worked really well.”    Or, he would say “I realize you are worrying about ‘X’ situation, and I was thinking that if you tried ‘A’, maybe it would work.”  In other words, he confirmed who I was when he commented specifically on good things, and he did not put suggestions in terms of something that I should do to correct one of my problems, but took the suggestion onto himself (“I was thinking about”  instead of  “you should do this”).  So when he said something, and it was in a couple of sentences, not a half-hour lecture, I could hear him with dignity. Try it out! Somewhere there is probably a dad who is smiling to himself saying, “It worked.  It actually worked.”

Is it possible for leaders and managers to give that kind of coaching on the job?  Absolutely!  There are some great lessons to take away from this unknown dad.

1.  Encouragement.  Leaders put courage into others through giving “Encouragement.” Everyone needs it, and very few people get too much of it. Always give as much positive feedback as possible.

2.  Acknowledgement. Acknowledge the effort, even if it hasn’t resulted in the desired outcome.  Maintaining healthy work relationships does not mean that leaders should avoid confronting issues.  We must acknowledge problems, but we should also acknowledge the efforts people have already made to resolve the situation.

3.  Humility. Offer suggestions with humility that recognizes that your idea may or may not be successful.  Even if you know it will work, it might be better to let the person discover it firsthand. A friend of mine had a unique way of doing this. He would say, “One option is…”  His approach made it easy to follow his suggestions, which I often did.

4.  Brief. Less is more.

5.  Dignity. People matter.  If you treat people like they don’t really matter, it won’t be long until they live up to your expectations.  If you treat people like they really do matter, then it won’t be long until they do things that really matter to your organization.

Try this father’s approach, and over time, you will find yourself saying, “It worked.  It worked like a charm.”

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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