Leaders – Are you starving your team?
Team members of all ages and stages are hungry for one thing from their leaders, constructive feedback. Everyone values the praise, opinion, and even the criticism (when it is delivered effectively) of those who lead them. A study done by DDI (Development Dimensions International) in 2011 found that only 49% of employees believed that their managers gave them feedback most of the time or always. A Gallup survey in 2009 found that 25% of people felt “ignored” in their place of work. How about you and your team? When was the last time you gave each person on your team some constructive feedback on how they were doing? (Sorry, not counting any type of formal performance review.)
Before we get too far into this, let’s talk about what “constructive” really looks like when it comes to feedback. While it is true that some feedback is better than nothing, as leaders, we really need to provide our team with feedback that they can actually use. So when we say things like, “Good job” or maybe, “Nice work” or even, “Way to go!” Those may feel good to say and even to hear, but they are not specific enough for most people to do anything with them. That is one reason they are quickly forgotten. Think about it this way, if someone on your team did a great job on something and you want them to repeat that performance, the chances of them doing it again go way up when you can tell them specifically what they did well and why it matters.
Years ago as a DDI facilitator, I learned a very simple and effective acronym to ensure we are giving others feedback they can use. It is called “S.T.A.R.” and stands for: Situation or Task, Action, and Result. What was the situation your team member was engaged in, or what was the task they were working on? What did they say or what action did they take? What was the result? The more specific you can get each element, the better. Here is an example of what that might sound like: “Patti, I overheard you talking to that customer on the phone a few minutes ago who was obviously upset. You really listened to her, and kept calm, even though I could hear her voice getting louder several times. I thought you did a wonderful job of representing the company without taking her complaint personal. Not only did you find a solution to her issue, I think you have won us a customer for life! Well done.” That would likely take only a minute or two of your time, and would certainly make Patti’s day. In fact, Patti would likely remember that conversation more than her last performance review.
In those cases where your feedback needs to address a correction in behavior more than celebrate, you will need to add two very important pieces to the S.T.A.R. process. First, what was the alternative action the person should have taken? What would you have rather they say or do in that situation? Second, describe clearly to them the enhanced result the alternative action would have created. Shared together, these two additional components added to the S.T.A.R. feedback process will improve communication and reduce the number of time you need to repeatedly address the same issue.
The following are best practices concerning constructive feedback:
- When possible, always give the feedback immediately following the action. Every hour that goes by lessens the impact. This is especially true for positive feedback, because the person is often thinking that their good efforts are not being noticed.
- Don’t make the person guess. When giving positive feedback, be sure to share exactly what they did or say that was good. If you are giving feedback to correct a performance issue, get right to the point without beating around the bush.
- Each person is different. Some like to be recognized for positive performance in front of others, but not everyone is comfortable in this situation. Even when you mean well, a positive situation can become a source of embarrassment. Know the person’s preference before you recognize them in public.
- Any type of negative feedback should always be done away from others. Even if this means having to wait a while to address the situation.
- Limit your feedback to one topic. Either positive or negative. (The old “sandwich” approach is never effective.) Don’t confuse the person by trying to cover too much ground.
- Avoid using the work “but” (or substitute words like “however”) in your feedback. For example, “Ken, you did a great job with that presentation this morning! But, all of the monthly reports you submitted were wrong and will have to be redone.” People tend to only recall what we say after the “but” in our feedback.
- Make every effort to share constructive feedback person-to-person and not through technology or another person. The nature of constructive feedback is verbal and informal. This is best done face-to-face. The phone and programs like Skype, would be a good second choice.
- Work with a professional coach who can help you improve your constructive feedback skills.
- Be balanced. Most people need to hear twenty or more positive feedbacks for every one negative they hear to stay motivated at work. How is your ratio?
- Be sincere. Can you tell if someone is telling you what they think you want to hear? So can others. Respect the person you are giving feedback. Make the feedback count by being sincere.
- Bring in a professional who can facilitate a seminar with you and others on how to give more constructive feedback and performance coaching.
- Read the books, Leadership and the One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, and Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen.
You team is starving for more feedback from you as their leader. Yes, it will take time and may not feel like it is your top priority every day. See it as an investment in growing the potential of each and every person who looks to you for influence. Like most good investments, the long-term payoff will be worth your efforts. Feed Your Team!
Here are a few suggested next steps to grow your feedback skills:
1) Work with a professional coach who can partner with you in a confidential and results focused process.
2) Engage with a professional trainer and facilitator to work with you and your team. Contact me if you are interested in hosting a Feedback Skills seminar.
3) Check out my church leadership online webinars at: www.leadership4transformation.thinkific.com