Here are some edited excerpts from a great post by our leadership colleague, Chuck Wachendorfer, on giving feedback effectively.
Giving feedback effectively includes following these six rules:
Focus on the behavior, not the intention. Never question someone’s intent. Assume they wanted to do the job well. It’s the behavior that may have fallen short. Usually, people can deal with changing their behavior more objectively. Attacking someone’s intent tends to be more personal and difficult to accept.
Give feedback frequently. If you want to help someone change their behavior, giving them feedback consistently and often will help them change faster. Waiting and allowing more time to pass, just allows bad habits more time to set in and the delivery to be more difficult. Give feedback while the memory is fresh. Catch it the first time. Don’t wait until the fourth or fifth time you’ve observed it. It only gets tougher to deliver the message.
Be fact based. Stick with the facts, or your personal observations, not hearsay, received second hand from someone else, or through some obscure means.
Catch people doing things right. Giving feedback doesn’t have to be negative, or pointing out where someone went wrong. In fact, neuroscientists tell us that if we want to reinforce new habits, it’s important we catch people doing things right. That focus reinforces new neural connections that help us establish new patterns of behavior.
Identify the specific task. Often I see leaders miss the mark in giving feedback effectively because they’re not specific enough for the person to know what has to change. Talking about the “job” or the “role” isn’t granular enough for people to act on. Identify the specific task. For example, the “job” might be washing the car, but the task the person needs to improve is cleaning the windows.
Clarify what doing it well looks like. Remind the person what the end game is. Chances are they may have forgotten, or remember only a part of the goal. Describe in full detail what has to be accomplished and provide the context for “why” it’s important.
Be effective, not efficient. In this world of email, text messages and Instagram, take the time to deliver the feedback in person if possible, or by phone if it’s absolutely not, and avoid any electronic means of delivering the message. I heard years ago, “Be efficient with things, be effective with people.” Delivering the message face to face communicates you value the relationship. It also gives you a chance to read the body language of the person to see how they’re receiving the feedback.
Being an effective leader can be challenging. It’s also what we see in organizations that makes the biggest difference in the performance of the firm.
Chuck Wachendorfer is Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Think2Perform, a business and sports performance firm that improves bottom-line results for executives, athletes and organizations. You may learn more about Chuck at Think2Perform, or you may contact Chuck directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of and speakers on Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, winner of the 2013 International Book Awards (Business: General). Twitter: @TripleCrownLead, @BobVanourek, @GVanourek