4 Things Business Leaders Should Consider Before Giving Critical Feedback
Instead of simply opening your mouth and saying the first thing that pops into your head, think the following suggestions through.
In business, one of the most important things any leader can do is provide feedback and correction for their employees. After all, you want your staff to turn in their best efforts and do things the right way. But when delivered with the wrong tone or intent, your attempts to give correction could cost you respect and cooperation. By taking a step back and performing these vital checks, you can ensure that your feedback will hit the mark.
1. Check your temper
Depending on the scope of what you need to correct, it can be understandable to be upset. But giving your employee a verbal lashing probably isn’t the best path to improving future actions.
Research has found that yelling in the office — no matter how justified you might feel — can actually contribute to depression and mental-health challenges. It decreases motivation and creativity, which is the exact opposite of what you you're aiming for.
Aggressive body language can leave employees feeling deflated and unappreciated. No matter how frustrated you might be, take some time to calm down so you can present correction in a helpful, positive tone.
2. Check their ‘vitals’
Ben Ward, founder and CEO of Forward Leadership and author of Sellership, warns that leaders should never go into correction mode if they don’t understand their employees’ mind, heart and feet. This describes the individual’s mindset, goals and their actions.
In a YouTube video discussing principles from his book, Ward recommends that to understand these important “vitals,” leaders should use “a very simple conversation to find out where their head’s at. ‘How are you doing today? What’s going on, what’s on your mind?’ It’s that simple. To get an idea of their why, their dreams, their goals, talk with them about what’s important to them. Ask them very clearly: ‘What are you working on? What are you excited about?’ Take five minutes to get to know this person.”
Such conversations give you a clearer understanding of each individuals' motivation. It can also help you understand what they’re working on, and maybe even clue you in as to what's holding back their performance in regards to previously set expectations.
3. Check their knowledge
It’s easy to blame others for their perceived mistakes and shortcomings, but sometimes, business leaders expect employees to know things that are actually well outside their wheelhouse. Other times, information hasn’t been properly communicated to them, so they don’t know everything that's required.
As just one example, a survey from AZCentral found that 28% of employees blamed poor internal communications for not being able to complete projects on time. SHRM estimates that for companies with 100 employees, miscommunications can result in average yearly productivity losses of $420,000.
Before playing the blame game, make sure that you’re not expecting your employee to know about something that hasn’t been communicated to them. If you forgot to send out a notification about a client’s desired change on their project, it’s not your team’s fault that it didn’t happen. Improving your own communication skills could play a key role in reducing the need for correction.
4. Check the evidence
Most people are naturally reluctant to believe that they’re doing something wrong — even when it’s their boss that’s telling them this. With just a few vague statements to go off of, it can be all too easy for an underperforming employee to brush your comments under the rug and continue working like they always have. Worse still, they may assume that you simply have a grudge against them or that you’re trying to make them look incompetent.
Because of this, it's always helpful to have some type of “evidence” you can offer your employees when offering correction. For example, a company that relies on content production could have editors give scores to writers based on the quality of their work. Demonstrating that a writer’s average score has dipped or that they’ve received a higher number of “bad” scores recently will help prove that your feedback has merit.
Providing concrete and specific examples will make employees more open to corrections. Most importantly, however, these examples should be followed up with feedback and assistance that will make it easier for them to improve. Demonstrating how you have worked through similar issues with others will give employees confidence and make them feel valued.
By ensuring that your desire to give correction is coming from a good place and is offered in a constructive and helpful manner, you help your team feel empowered and motivated to give their best efforts. And as a result, they'll become more productive and your company can flourish like never before. Just perform these basic checks first, and you’ll be on your way to providing correction that works.
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