Preferences May Vary

When it comes to the “Do’s and Don’ts” of providing constructive performance feedback, preferences may vary. However, there are practical methods to ensure it’s handled productively. Some bosses may say “it depends on what I’m addressing.” while others think “this method gets the point across better” …

Then there are those who believe the industry requires them to take a particular approach because “in this industry, you need thick skin.” …

Well, whichever side of preference you may be on, it’s critical that your actions motivate the person to improve.

Let’s unpack this with a few important tips.

Keep in mind that feedback is not intended to tear someone down rather set forth a plan to build them up. Who honestly feels like driving revenue or providing great customer service after being shredded apart verbally by their boss? No one!

And if there is someone, how motivated to perform well do you really think they are? Put that on a scale of 1 – 10 for us. We vote 5 or less.

So how can leaders do this in a tactful yet productive way?

Some studies recommend a range of one to five positive comments for every negative that will be mentioned.

5?! Yup. Hold on, we have some thoughts on this too.

This may seem challenging to do, however, you should dig deep for this one. Their performance and your need for production should not be buried in a hole of demotivating feedback.

Positive feedback used to reinforce goals creates a more productive level of motivation to achieve them.

Now, on the other hand, avoid being too positive. This may cause the person to lose sight of the behaviors that need to change. One practical way to be positive without overdoing it (with 5 comments of awesomeness) is by managing your body language and tone. For example, making eye contact while saying “Cursing after you hang up the phone with a customer is unacceptable, I believe you’re capable of handling these situations better.” in a slightly stern tone with a serious facial expression. This can make the message clear yet positively reinforced.

“Just about every leader is awful at providing feedback.”

“All of them say something horrible every time.”

“They always get it wrong.”

Disagree? Bothered by the comments? …Good.

Leaders should stay away from using absolute statements while providing feedback. Comments that include absolutes such as “you never”, “you always”, “every time” or “you’re the only one who ever does” can be counterproductive. Telling long-winded, gossipy stories, filled with personal overtones should also be avoided. Most employees will become defensive, feel attacked or just tune you out.

To ensure the employee is clear on what needs to change, a less abrasive method would be to focus on the facts. Discuss the specific occurrence at hand and assess their understanding of how the desired behaviors are better for the overall business. Once the employee understands how their performance is affecting the work-mosphere around them the leader can then set forth clear expectations. We digress.

So in closing …

While you may prefer to “just tell’em like it is.” consider this while doing so – as a leader, am I consistently choosing to lead those under my influence in a way that truly motivates them to improve?

The answer is up to you.