Feedback in life and in work is essential for our personal growth. It’s important for you as a leader, friend, and family member to share feedback that adds value to the person that you are giving it to.
Equally important to the actual feedback that you give is the setting in which you give it. I know I have been guilty of mentally shutting down in the past when the feedback was given at the worst time and delivered without much thought put into it. I’ve also mishandled giving feedback because I was more concerned with the delivery instead of how it was delivered.
When to give feedback in a group setting
There are times when giving feedback in a group setting is your ideal option
More than one person on the team was involved in the problem or issue that the feedback is about.
The issue involves the majority of the team.
People want to hear feedback from the source and not 2nd or 3rd hand from someone else. Do your best to give feedback directly to the group that is involved so that they can hear it straight from you and seek any further clarifications.
When the team falls short, a coach huddles the team up and talks through the play. In the military, your squad or platoon is often given feedback together because of how close they work together towards a goal. At home, maybe the kids collectively didn’t meet your expectations. When the group is involved, share it with them as a whole.
When to give feedback one-on-one
There are other times when giving individual feedback is the appropriate setting.
The feedback is meant for an individual
The feedback is of personal nature
People hate it when their time is wasted. When you pull in a whole team to give feedback in a general way that was caused by one person, you aren’t being effective with anyone. The ones not involved will see this as a waste of their time and it will hurt your credibility. The person that actually needs the feedback, may either be embarrassed, which hurts your trust level, or they feel anonymous and don’t take your feedback to heart. You lose all-around in this scenario!
Have the managerial courage to have a one-on-one conversation with the person and address them directly. If the feedback is personal in nature, always take time to address it directly instead of using someone else to give the feedback.
Be sure to give one-on-one feedback in a setting that is quiet and non-distracting if possible and away from other curious ears.
When not to give feedback
Some of the best feedback I have ever given was not actually giving it to the other person. Counterintuitive? It may sound that way, but you need to check the reason behind the need for feedback.
You don’t want to let your emotions fully drive feedback. You’ll only offer feedback that pushes the person away, potentially damaging a relationship and giving your feedback a 0% chance of acceptance. Think about all the viral videos of people in full rage mode yelling at someone in public. Obviously, emotions have gotten the best of the person, and without a doubt, whatever they say is not going to change the situation for the better. Perhaps you are not going to go viral in fits of anger, but your emotions are clouding your thoughts on feedback. Take time to settle down, reflect and then determine if the feedback is worth giving.
We have said before that it’s important to give coaching and feedback as close to the issues or occurrence as possible. There will be times where you’ll want to give instant feedback, but maybe you take a step back and see the fuller picture and consider what else is going on. Feedback given from a very narrow perspective is rarely taken well and actioned on even less than that.
Reflect on the why behind your feedback. Are you giving it to make the person better or because it makes you feel better? If it’s for yourself, it may be best to not give it at all.
Think about your feedback and the setting that you are giving it to the other person. Maximize your gift to others by giving it in a thoughtful and caring way in the right setting. They will be more likely to appreciate it and take it to heart.
Tough conversations are…well.. tough. It’s certainly not the most enviable part of being a leader, but it’s certainly a differentiator between an ok manager and a leader worth following. A great leader doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations, but at the same time isn’t confrontational enough to create unneeded drama in the workplace. They have the conversations that need to be had with positive intent that benefits the individual and the team.
Here are some things to remember as you step up to tough conversations.
Seek feedback, discuss the situation, and bounce ideas of approach off of your trusted advisors, and mentors. They may be able to fill in a perspective that you haven’t considered or give you valuable feedback on your approach or intentions.
Many organizations also have HR support, either as a generalist or someone that specifically works with employee issues. Be sure to partner with these groups for guidance. They can help to ensure that you are good from a legal and best practice perspective.
Go in with a plan
No matter your level of comfortability with improvisation when speaking to others, always plan through the key points that you want to share when having a difficult conversation with others.
Here is a real way that a tough conversation can go if you head into the interaction with the “I’m just going to wing it” mentality.
You begin the conversation, it meanders a bit and you miss one of the key points of the conversation.
The person responds in a way that you hadn’t considered and you improvise some more. This takes you further off course.
The other person reacts to the change in direction.
Now you react again to the other person, further taking you off-topic.
Rinse and repeat the back and forth.
By the end, you are both at your wit’s end. You’ve only further eroded the relationship and can’t realistically expect any kind of behavior change from the person, because they haven’t accepted the feedback that you wanted to give.
Not ideal! You’ve likely seen that conversation play out several different ways in both your personal and professional life. You don’t necessarily have to have a script for every conversation, but you should always have a plan:
What are the key points that you want to get across?
What is the impact of the reason for the meeting?
What time frame do they need to correct the behavior or action?
What is the best place or environment to have the conversation?
What are some ways that they may react? Are you mentally prepared for those reactions?
Acknowledge your feelings
We have experience feelings leading up to and during those difficult conversations. It’s likely that you are frustrated, disappointed, or even angry with the person and the decisions that led to a need for a tough conversation. Take time to acknowledge those and process them as you prepare for that talk with the other person.
You may be given the advice to “shut down” your emotions and just plow through the conversation with the other person. (A just do it mentality) Sure, you may be able to navigate a conversation this way, but you’re less likely to come out on the other side of the interaction in a way that truly adds value to others.
Instead of shutting off all emotions and coming across as cold and uncaring, lean into your emotional intelligence skills in order to acknowledge both your and the other person’s emotions without letting emotions run rampant over the reason for the conversation.
Be honest and give feedback. It’s okay to be assertive and to the point. “When you _____activity_____ I get/feel/become ____emotion_____. I need ________ going forward. I wanted you to know this because__________ (It impacts my work and I want to have a good relationship with you, I care about you, I want us both to do well, etc)
It’s ok to be nervous or to have butterflies in your stomach before a difficult conversation. Acknowledge them, remember your plan and partnerships with others that have supported you up until this moment. Go into the conversation with positive intent while showcasing your strong emotional intelligence and empathy skills. The other person will be better equipped with proper expectations and you’ll be strengthening your own leadership qualities in the process.
Transparency is not a new leadership issue that people have faced. For years, employees have said that they simply don’t trust their leaders to give them the full story of what’s going on a daily basis.
The leaders that do break the cycle and become more transparent and authentic in what they do see benefits not only for their team but to their own career as a result.
The benefits of transparency for yourself and your team
It pays to be transparent with others. The efficiency of the team increases, trust is strengthened, buy-in begins to rise and people are more satisfied in their work. Here are some additional benefits of being transparent in how you lead others.
Higher employee engagement
A leader that’s honest and open with others, gains a deeper level of trust with those that they work with. Their team and co-workers feel safe, valued and they are much more likely to share candid feedback and insight.
People are more engaged and bring extra effort when they feel like they have an honest view of what’s going on and are empowered to be transparent and authentic themselves.
Bringing clear expectations
We’ve talked before about how some people hold knowledge as power over others. As a transparent leader, you freely give out knowledge, updates, and context to others so they have a very clear picture of the current state, a vision of the future state that you are shooting for, and a roadmap of how to get from here to there.
Survey struggling employees and they’ll often point to lack of clarity and vision as a reason for the team’s ineffectiveness. You’ll likely hear something like:
“I don’t know what’s fully expected of me to get the job done.”
“I often don’t have all the puzzle pieces (info) to get the task done like leadership is expecting.”
“I don’t know what the other group is doing to help us make it to our goal” (Silos)
Hearing a lack of clarity statements, means you’ve opportunities around communication and transparency with others.
Stronger solutions to problems
Transparency from leaders often generates better problem-solving from the team and stronger solutions to the problems that your team needs to conquer. By being open and honest, people can bring creative solutions to the table that you may not have even considered.
Tips to be more transparent
Being a transparent leader may push you to the edge, or even past, your comfort zone. This change may take a more thoughtful approach in how and what you communicate and know that it will take time to permeate into others for their own behavioral change.
Establish an expectation for leaders to be transparent with business developments and decisions. The higher up you go, the more important that this becomes. Be clear in what you expect from others, model it so they can see it in action, and check in to see that it’s being lived out.
Know that transparency doesn’t mean oversharing. Sometimes we think that transparency means that we have to tell people everything that is happening behind the scenes of a decision. Know that this is not the case. If there was drama or someone didn’t represent themselves well in a meeting, sharing that with others is not transparency, it’s gossip. Share information without the unnecessary baggage. That baggage dilutes the message and doesn’t reflect well on your own leadership.
Have regular meetings where you share updates about the company, team, and progress on what you’ve been working towards. Thinking back to when COVID first became widespread in the Winter/Spring of 2020, the best companies got out ahead of the uncertainty that was happening and having more consistent updates of the state of the virus, how it impacted the company and what they were doing to address people’s concerns. Transparency is highly valued in times of uncertainty.
Adopt an open-door policy, not just in words but in action. I’ve worked with many organizations that had an open-door policy on paper, but once someone took advantage of the opportunity, they would get in trouble for a variety of confusing and silly reasons. Practice transparency that allows others to connect with you (and your leaders) without fear of political blowback, repercussions, and other consequences.
Being a transparent leader isn’t always easy. It requires you to be authentic and vulnerable in a way that you may not be fully comfortable with. Embrace transparency in your leadership and see how your team benefits and your own career accelerates as a result.
Today Zack and Mike share their 2021 book recommendations!
Clarity in Crisis by Marc Polymeropoulos
“I really enjoyed Marc’s book. It’s an engaging read that follows his career in the CIA while pulling out leadership and team-building lessons that can be applied to every team, no matter the size or industry.” – ZH
“This is one of my favorite book recommendations for a new leader and a leader looking to raise their effectiveness. Lee shares a number of great tips and stories in order to care for your team and your customer.” -ZH
“This book does a fantastic job of helping the reader experience what it was like to be close to the events that unfolded on 9/11. The book leans heavily into first-hand accounts from interviews that tell a powerful story of heroism, loss, luck, and trama. A powerful read that took me longer than usual to read. I found myself reading a bit and then reflecting on what the people in the interviews experienced.” – ZH
Pivot by Jenny Blake
“Jenny does a great job a helping the reader put a plan in place to pivot to that next role that they want to be in. It’s not always realistic to say that you want to be the CEO fresh out of college. Instead, she helps the person realize what steps they need to take to get to their ultimate goal.” – MF
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
“I love all of Malcolm’s stuff from his books to his podcast. I like how Malcolm dives into what is behind a person’s success and what makes a person successful that we don’t initially think about.” -MF
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
” I love a good biography and have always been interested in Steve Jobs and what he was able to do as a leader. I really appreciated that the biography shows both the good and the bad behind Steve and lets the reader decide what their takeaway is. ” – MF
There are just some phrases out there that can drive us up a wall. From “sorry to bother you, ” to “I assumed” and everywhere in between, we all have room to grow when it comes to removing un-productive and downright distracting phrases from our leadership vocabulary.
Here are four phrases that would serve you well by removing them from your regular communications with others.
#1 People don’t want to work anymore
Why you should remove it: You are putting the blame of your shortage on others while dragging down the morale of those that do currently work for you.
This phrase really just entered mainstream popularity in 2021. Initially posted at a few restaurant drive-thrus, the phrase and subsequent variations on the theme began popping up in businesses in other industries. I think for some leaders, putting up a “no one wants to work here anymore” sign is an effort to relieve pressure off of the staff that is in the building. In reality, what you are asking customers to do is to lower their standards as soon as they enter the door.
Think of the impact that the phrase has on your team. If you say that people don’t want to work, then what is compelling them to stay there? Are they a loser for working somewhere that no one else wants to?
Use this phrase instead: What can we do to make the culture and role more compelling to others? Yes, standards and expectations are shifting in the job market. What can you refresh, overhaul or move on from (See Ep 223: Facelifts, overhauls, and funerals) in order to make a place a compelling place where people would want to work. Although money does play a part in the equation, it’s not the full answer. What else do you provide and what experience can you give others that join the team?
#2 Does that make sense?
Why you should remove it: It shows a lack of confidence in your communication skills and can be a distraction to the other person.
This phrase is often rooted in good intentions. You want to make sure that the person understands the information that you are trying to convey to them. Said enough, and this phrase can slow down a conversation and frustrate the other person. It can also cause the other person to question your confidence in your communication skills.
Does that make sense, can be used as a crutch as you are presenting to others. When overused the other person may begin to anticipate all the stops that will have to happen in order to affirm you during the conversation and may be less engaged as a result.
Use this phrase instead: Any questions? or I look forward to hearing your questions and feedback. This subtly shows that you are confident in yourself and in what you are presenting and still gives the other person a chance to ask any clarifying questions or outright say that they don’t understand.
Why you should remove it: It can sound apologetic and undercut what you are really trying to say.
How can one word undercut your message? Look at the difference between, “I just wanted to let you know,” and “I wanted to let you know” The first can come off as apologetic and very non-confrontational while the other communicates what you really want.
Inserting the word “just” in any statement automatically lowers the power of the rest of the statement. We have coached leaders for years to avoid the sandwich-style approach to feedback. (Say something nice, give feedback, say something nice) because it dilutes your feedback among other things. The word “just” does the exact same thing in your regular dialog with others.
Use this phrase instead: Just stop saying “Just”. Take the weakening qualifier out and let your statements, thoughts, and opinions stand on their own.
#4 It is what it is
Why you should remove it: The phrase inspires no motivation and communicates your lack of ownership of the situation.
Ah, my most hated phrase to hear in leadership and life! After all the hosts have ribbed me at one point or another about this phrase on the show, there are multiple reasons why you should exterminate this phrase out of your leadership talk. First, think about the message that you are sending to the receiver. You are basically saying, “This is awful, I’m not on board and we’ve got to deal with it.” A leader that resigns themselves to the situation around them is not a leader that inspires you to follow them.
The phase also invites other people to complain, now or later, about the situation or scenario as well. This either further degrades trust in the problem at hand and also gives others an excuse to not have ownership in the problem either.
Use this phrase instead: It is what we make it. This acknowledges that yes, the situation isn’t ideal, but we have full ownership in our part to play and can make the best of the issue. It’s a twist that makes an overly pessimistic view on things into one that is positive and sees the obstacle as one that we can overcome together.
Remove these four phrases and you’ll be on your way to communicating more effectively while encouraging others to take a positive approach towards any challenge.