Giving feedback is an area where many good leaders and managers fail. I’ve heard many top employees complain that they don’t get any feedback — really that’s what they are complaining about?! The truth is that millennials are one of the hardest working, most passionate and most open generations in the work force. Millennials grew up in a time where following their passion was possible, where being open and vulnerable (think social media) was a virtue, where immediate feedback was everywhere (think internet, texting and social media) and personal development was a way of life (think Oprah, Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil). So, if you are going to successfully manage millennials you’re going to want to master feedback because they are expecting it and they’ll use it! Here’s my 6 secrets to being great at giving feedback.
#1. Feedback Is Your Job
Feedback is your job. Feedback lets your team members know how they’re doing. Imagine a basketball coach that focused only on the vision of winning the championship and the task of running drills and playing games, but never gave his or her players any feedback on what they were doing well and were they needed to improve. Not only would that be super weird, it would make for a very ineffective coach and if not incompetent coach. Giving feedback is your job! If you’re not giving feedback all the time, you’re the coach who’s is team running drills and playing games with no coaching.
#2. Feedback Is Both Positive and Negative
If you’re like me I cringe at the thought of feedback. “I have some feedback for you” causes my stomach to clench the same way as “come to my office” and “we have to talk”. But, feedback is not all negative. Feedback is about giving information in relationship to results. Your team members need to know both where they’re doing well and where they’re not doing well to perform at their best. If you’re only providing negative feedback, you’re only giving half the coaching and leadership.
#3. Feedback Is Not Motivation
Lots of leaders dole out the motivational phrases like “good job”, “you’re doing great”, “keep up the good work”, but, this is not feedback. For feedback to have any value (and register as feedback) it must be specific. Feedback must give the details of what worked and what didn’t work — think about a coaching helping Michael Jordon with his free throw. If the coach says “That was good, do it again.”, it doesn’t give Michael Jordan any information on what worked and what to focus on to get even better. But, if the coach says “The follow-through with your wrist was perfect, now focus on following-through all the way to your finger tips.”, this is feedback Michael Jordan can use to improve his performance. You need to provide specific feedback about what’s working and what’s not working so your team members know exactly what to keep doing and what to go to work on.
#4. Structured And Unstructured Feedback Is Required
Most leaders and companies I know do put in a lot of effort to provide feedback in an annual type of review. This is a good place to start and it’s not enough. Feedback is like sports (if you didn’t get that from my previous basketball analogy). Coaches need to give feedback in the pre-season training camp, in weekly practice and during the game. Saving up all your feedback for an annual review makes the feedback too weighted, too late and too general. When you save all your feedback for annual review you often end up watering down the feedback. It’s also too long after the event to remember significant details that make the feedback valuable. Plus, it doesn’t give your team member any game-time feedback to help them win the game. It’s like telling them the score after the game is over and telling them they should have tried harder when they didn’t even know they were losing.
#5. Feedback Does Not Always Have To Be a Sh** Sandwich
A common mistake the best leaders make is always giving feedback in the form of a sh** sandwich — that is sandwiching negative feedback between positive feedback. The reason it doesn’t work is that the message is so unclear. So the team member is confused about what’s really going on with their performance. However, if a coach tells her player to increase their sprint speed by 20%, the player is super clear what part of his performance he needs to focus on. And when the player improves and the coach acknowledges his diligence and improvement that’s clear too. Don’t diminish good and bad feedback by sandwiching them together.
#6. Feedback Is A Skill
Feedback is a skill. It is not something that comes naturally to most people. So you really need to focus on it if you want to become good at it. The good news is that it gets easier with time and there are a lot of great resources to help you (eckhem, like this blog). It is worth spending some time and energy learning more about giving feedback and growing your capacity in that area. Your career, success and everyone that works with you with thank you. And to make your job a little easier here are some great sentence starters for giving feedback:
- I’m grateful for…
- I admire you for your…
- Because I care about your success may I recommend…
- I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.
- Can you dial up…
- Can you dial down…
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