Not every person in a leadership role is created equal. Some, in fact, have no business being in the position of influencing other people.
That said, I've seen certain bad leadership behaviors rise to the top. One of the usual suspects is the inability of the manager to give his or her employees feedback. Not just any feedback -- the right feedback.
For many, the word feedback brings up negative feelings -- of self-doubt, bias, and even resentment. Certainly, feedback has a bad reputation from years of performance reviews poorly delivered by managers unwilling to talk the talk.
So, what can we do to change this? How can we get feedback right?
M. Tamra Chandler, best-selling author and founder of PeopleFirm, a strategy and consulting firm, says we need to be clear and specific when offering feedback. It's as much about the information being provided as it is about how it's received.
For starters, one of the things she suggests is ditching the formal, yearly performance review model to instead let the receiver in by opening up honest dialog.
Additionally, Chandler says we need to "scrap the managerial directives and, instead, create meaningful conversations around the information," thus allowing room for suggestions and ideas.
4 Common Feedback Mistakes
Intentions may be good when it comes to feedback, but often things leaders believe to be helpful, in fact, are not. If you're in a leadership role now, Chandler has four tips to identify your feedback mistakes and what you should try to do instead.
1. DON'T rely on simple platitudes. DO provide specific and relevant details.
Instead of saying something like "working with you inspires me," try something like, "the time you spend focused on helping me learn and understand the work we're doing together inspires me." This is a clear and specific statement that allows the receiver to understand the exact impact they are having, and will hopefully inspire even more learning and action.
2. DON'T try to "fix" someone. DO offer feedback as a helpful tool they can use.
We need to have conversations that enable us to understand the receiver's perspective, as well as their goals and aspirations. Then we need to explore how they would like to be helped and where they really want to grow. Finally, we need to offer up our own observations, insights, and experiences that are relevant to their direction.
If someone doesn't aspire to grow in the direction we're pushing them toward, how will they ever succeed? Can they succeed? Everyone is entitled to their own goals and aspirations, but if they don't serve the organization then perhaps it's time to find a better fit. As the provider of feedback, you should be looking at where you can add value to this person instead of trying to "fix" them.
3. DON'T indulge only in "manager tells." DO engage in conversation.
Simply put: helpful, effective feedback is a two-way process based on trust. To unleash the true power of helpful, positive feedback, both parties must come into the conversation with open minds. As a manager, you can build on that trust by providing ongoing supportive, specific feedback with the goal of helping someone grow and develop. Demonstrate daily that it's not about your agenda -- instead, it's about their future and their career.
The most powerful action any of us can take is to seek more feedback, inviting those around us into a safe relationship that minimizes fear and allows trust to flourish.
4. DON'T rely on traditional annual reviews. DO make feedback part of an ongoing relationship and continuous conversation.
Far too often, the "typical" annual review and its process don't result in positive feedback. Why? Generally, in this process, managers will bank up views and perspective until review time, dumping them all at once on the receiver, thus leaving them dazed and confused, overwhelmed, and in some cases irritated.
If we want someone to grow, why are we waiting an entire year to offer them help? Feedback is about asking and receiving useful advice and insights on a continuous journey toward our goals. It's about building trusting relationships and knowing that help is there.
When we get it right, feedback lifts us up, helps us understand our strengths, shows us pathways to achieve that next step, and sometimes even changes the course of our lives.