- Accept the norm that feedback is candid and welcomed by all.
- Accept the norm that feedback is frequent and meant to drive positive changes in performance.
- Accept the norm that we must review and reflect on what we’re writing and saying to one another on a regular basis so that the quality of our feedback improves.
Be a Communicator: Are your organization’s goals communicated well enough to use in a conversation regarding performance?
The first C is to be a communicator in the first place. Too many leaders fail to communicate, and that’s simply not acceptable. The bottom line is that strong communication is grounded in the mission, vision, and goals of the organization. Leaders must over-communicate the purpose and meaning behind the work. If you haven’t communicated the goals of your organization often enough to hold others accountable to them then they might as well not exist. Dan should be able to use the department’s goals to demonstrate a performance gap for Samantha. If he can’t, the goals for her performance aren’t clear enough.
Be Clear: Is your feedback clear enough for others to take action?
Achieving clarity around the goals and values is the backdrop for quality feedback concerning an individual’s personal actions or a team’s accomplishments. This type of clarity with communication allows for all professional dialogue about performance to be more objective. In the case of Samantha, it means pointing out her strengths and weaknesses based on pre-defined organizational expectations, which are not the arbitrary personal standards of the supervisor. Remember that this means two things: 1. the mission, vision, and goals have been communicated and 2. that the feedback is clearly tied to them. Too often, we fall into the trap of assuming that the goals are clear when they’re not or we give feedback that isn’t clearly linked to the goals. In either case, we’re not communicating clearly and subsequent improvements won’t be made.
Be Candid: Is your feedback specific, candid, two-way, and ongoing?
The third C is candor. Being candid while maintaining a two-way, open dialogue, requires serious skill. It also requires a high degree of competence with the aspects of Samantha’s performance that you’re addressing. Too often, candor has a negative connotation because it is associated with a difficult message or with a frankness that’s too abrupt. We maintain that candor is simply direct and specific feedback, which everyone needs, and should be presented in a manner that is designed to be open and honest. In an interview with one of the greatest boxing trainers ever, Angelo Dundee makes it clear why his relationship with Muhammed Ali was so successful: “I was always very honest with him. And him with me.” Dundee recalls how he could simply mention how Ali’s jab looked and how Ali would work on it until it was right. Embracing candor as the vehicle for improved performance builds a culture that accepts and expects feedback for improved performance. Candor also increases the speed of the desired improvements. It accounts for specificity with the needed changes versus the flowery and ambiguous feedback that leaders sometimes provide in an effort to “be nice.”
Be in their Corner: Does your feedback communicate that you’re in the person’s corner no matter what you’re saying?
The fourth C of our professional dialogue model is communicating that you’re in the corner of the person with whom you’re feedback is directed. People are not always going to like what you say, especially when it’s critical about an aspect of their performance at work, but they’ll be far more likely to accept the message if they know that you’re with them in their efforts to make improvements. Consider Samantha, the only way she’s going to get better is if someone points out her performance issues to her. She’ll likely respond in one of two ways: defensively, which is a result of her feeling alone in her efforts to improve or acceptance, which is the result of her feeling like the message is coming from someone who stands in her corner with support and resources. The difference looks like this:
- Samantha, you need to make some changes or we’re going to have to talk about an improvement plan for you.
- Samantha, you need to make some changes, and I’m here to support you with some strong advice and a few resources that can help. Let’s work together on this so that you can improve your performance and contribute on greater level, which I’m confident you can do.
The first example is almost an ultimatum, and sometimes people do need real documented improvement plans, but it leaves Samantha hanging out there alone versus the second example, which commands the same message but shows that the leader is there to help and not just to evaluate.
Be Caring: Do your words and actions demonstrate care for the people in your organization?
The fifth and final C in the professional dialogue model is demonstrating care. If the leader truly cares about the people in the organization and demonstrates care through actions and words, the people will be motivated and inspired to put forth effort and improve the quality of their performance through feedback. We can’t just want Samantha to improve for the sake of the organization. We have to care about Samantha–her personal needs, her sense of efficacy, and her feelings about the job she does–before we can spend any time enhancing her performance through critical feedback. Leaders who care do so with specific actions and words. Sinek metaphorically describes this by saying that “leaders eat last.” By eating last, providing food, making work fun, and uplifting others, leaders can demonstrate that they care about people.If you communicate with people, you do so clearly, you employ candor, you demonstrate that you’re in their corner, and you show care, you’re leading in a way that should prevent any fear from giving feedback to the people on your team or in your organization. This type of professional dialogue is exactly what leaders need to propel their teams into the future. That’s our model for professional feedback, and we hope it helps you to lead better and grow faster. Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, follow, or comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen. TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster. Joe & T.J. References Gallup, Inc. (2015, April 08). Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236570/employees-lot-managers.aspx Markman, A. (2017). Poor communication is often a symptom of a different problem. Harvard Business Review. Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. Penguin Group: New York.