Leadership Boot Camp: Forward Feedback

feedbackIn this final week of Leadership Boot Camp, we tackle the critical skill of delivering forward feedback – the conversations that drive you closer to defined success.  In today’s fast-paced environment, specific, meaningful feedback can be very difficult to accomplish.  But without it, your team will never move to the next level which means your business will suffer as well.

Effective feedback happens only when the building blocks are in place – trust, clarity and accountability.  We covered these in the first three weeks of Boot Camp.  Without each skill, your feedback will fall flat.  You will have great intentions but the outcome will fall short of what you desire.  So, if you haven’t read the last three articles, check them out first (by clicking on each word above) then join us back for this wrap on topic of feedback.

If you want to deliver feedback the moves your team forward, follow these three rules:

Remember, your employee is hearing your message for the first time.
The need for constructive feedback typically grows over time. A trend in negative behavior occurs enough (without self improvement) the supervisor feels the need to address it.  He thinks about it for a while then determines the best approach with the employee.  Once the meeting finally occurs, the leader has “lived” with the performance issue for some time.  However, the employee is hearing this message for the first time.  And in many cases, the employee may not have been aware there was even a problem.  As your employee reasons your words, he is also trying to maintain composure, and reconcile your assessment of his work. So don’t be surprised if the initial conversation starts “slow”; your employee is still trying to make sense of the conversation.

Break it down: what vs how
Any aspect of job performance includes both tactical and relational elements.  Your feedback will have a better chance of understanding if you describe your concerns in this format.  The tactical elements are what we call the “WHAT” of the task.  Physically, what are the components of the task are below expectation? Is the report inaccurate? Are phone calls being returned to customers too late? Is the safety process out of order?  Feedback to these elements are often quantifiable in some way.  Speak in specifics so your employee knows exactly where the deficiency is.  The relational elements of the task involve the “HOW”.  These are often harder to talk about. How was the employee rude to her co-worker? Why do you feel the employee is acting lazily to the deadline? What makes you feel the employee is not being a team leader.  While these behaviors are not necessarily countable, by include specific behaviors (rolling the eyes, not volunteering to help, etc.), you help the employee understand your concern.  Performance includes both aspects of tactical and relational skill and your employee must have both to be successful.

Employees should not want to “take cover” every time you give them feedback.
We know the first commandment of feedback is to provide both positive and constructive messages to your team.  Let’s face it, aside from “good job”, positive feedback is sometimes harder to deliver than the improvement messages.  But remember, every interaction you have with your team sets an expectation about you.  If every conversation with you is always about the job or about what needs to improve, your team begins to dread those moments they see you approaching or those times you ask for a brief chat.  In a time-stretched workplace, you have to make each moment count.  Your employee must know you have their best interest at heart and that when you talk, you ensure conversation about all aspects of their performance.

So, here’s the challenge.  Think about every person you lead and the feedback you have given them in the last seven days.  Was the conversation delivered in a way to help your employee get better in some way? And now, seven days later, is the employee meeting your expectations?

As our Boot Camp wraps up remember, physical fitness is much more than a 30-day challenge.  It’s a lifestyle.  So keep your tennis shoes on.  We’re in it with you for the long haul.  Go Team You!

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