Tom Hammel 2017-10-03 01:58:28
A CONVERSATION WITH JILL GEISLER ON THE ART OF FEEDBACK Jill Geisler is an internationally recognized expert in leadership, management and communication. Her “What Great Bosses Know” podcasts on iTunes U have been downloaded millions of times. As an alternative to the standard session preview article, Jill Geisler opted for a brief interview with Contractor Supply, which is published below. CS: Distributors today are generally running at 90 miles an hour. What are some ways to build feedback opportunities into the daily rush? JILL: I always teach managers that I can’t give them more hours in the day or days in the week, but I can help them “upgrade” the quality of the feedback they currently provide. (That’s like being upgraded on a flight. You get to your destination in the same amount of time, but the experience is much better.) So how do you do that? First, think of feedback on three levels: Strategic impact (Feedback that connects with our company’s priorities) Everyday excellence (Feedback on today’s work) Personal growth (Feedback on the employee’s strengths, challenges and goals) To be really effective, your feedback should routinely connect with all three. But most managers focus primarily on No. 2 – today’s work. That means they’re missing the things that can have the greatest impact for both your organization and the staffer. So, if you want to improve the quality and quantity of your feedback, take a mental inventory of your team members. What do you know about them (from direct observation or from your deputies)? What are your goals for them? What are their aspirations? Then, think about key aspects of your organization’s strategy (fresh customer approaches, changing demographic focus, new product lines, etc.) and connect your feedback to those targets. Commit to the idea that every interaction you have with employees is an opportunity for feedback. Never waste that moment. And since you can’t be everywhere and know everything, encourage your deputies to keep you in the loop, especially about good staff performance, however small. Don’t be the person who says, “I don’t praise people for doing what they’re supposed to do.” People remember bosses who thank them for reliability, encourage them when they’re frustrated and reinforce their early, imperfect steps when they’re adapting to change. CS: Is immediate feedback the best or are there scenarios where delayed feedback can be as effective? JILL: It’s commonly assumed that feedback is best delivered in close proximity to an action or event that it’s tied to. But feedback delayed isn’t feedback denied. Deliver it when you can. But I’d add something else. If you’re an emotionally intelligent leader, you can read people and know when they would benefit from just the right words from you. You can read the room and know when things are too quiet or tense or loose. And you will respond in the moment. This isn’t pre-planned feedback. It’s what you say when you understood the power of your words to make a difference. To an employee, it could be: “Your calm in the storm is what gets us through moments like this.” Or to a team: “Remember everyone, we’re already at 90 percent of our goal. We can see the finish line.” CS: Are there times when “hard” feedback (tough love) is more appropriate than “soft” feedback, or should all feedback take the same delivery timbre? JILL: We know that employees appreciate leaders who bring a level-headed, non-mercurial approach to their communication. They are clear, consistent and candid, whether the message is positive or negative. Here’s the interesting thing: If you are known for being generous with feedback of all kinds, delivered in a calm, straightforward way — then the day you raise your voice or even get an edge to it: people take notice. They take you more seriously because the difference is so striking. So, save that dramatic delivery for the day you have to shout over the din of some pointless squabble or shut down a bully. It will work. CS: How do I get newer employees to accept feedback from my trusted lieutenants in the company? How can I follow up and ensure that those lieutenants are delivering the feedback message I want them to? JILL: You and your deputies should always be on the same page about those three levels of feedback I mentioned previously. When that’s the case, you are speaking with one voice about what’s important. Your lieutenants will feel free to deliver feedback without checking with you first or fearing you’ll contradict them. Always encourage your deputies to let you know about things they’ve observed that you might have missed, so you can use it in your feedback. Ask them to cc: you on emails that acknowledge an employee’s good efforts. Feedback really is a team sport. You have to bake it into your culture. CS: What are some ways to gauge the effectiveness of feedback in terms of behavioral adjustments or productivity changes by the recipient? JILL: Here’s the definition of feedback that I developed for my book “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know”: Information with Intent to Influence. If you’re committed to effective feedback, you know exactly what it is you are trying to influence. Is it morale, behavior, quality, productivity, engagement, collaboration, problem-solving, decision-making? By deciding what you’re trying to influence in the organization or with individuals, you can more effectively measure the impact. For example, if I want to influence an employee’s decision-making behaviors, then I’m going to make that the focus of my feedback. I’ll precisely describe what success is going to look like. You can say: “Tom, there’s a gap between where you are and where you need to be when it comes to decision-making. You tend to come to me for judgment calls on things I’d like you to handle. Let’s talk about why that happens, how we’re going to make sure this will change, and what that change will look like in action.” Then you discuss how you’ll keep an eye out for the changed behavior and when you’ll touch base in the near future to review. Setting up a “next” conversation is a great way to keep both of you focused on the evolving improvement. CS: Correspondingly, how can I as a manager seek feedback from my employees on how well I am communicating in feedback situations? How do I avoid delivering feedback that comes across as insincere or has “strings attached?” JILL: I teach managers to avoid what I call “praise erasers.” They include: Praise that’s vague and offers no specifics. Praise that’s condescending (“Wow, who knew you could do that?”) Praise that’s self-absorbed (“Great work. It reminds me of the time I rocked a project like that.”) Praise that’s controlling (“Nice job. I told you to do it my way. Now you see why.”) Praise that’s bait-and-switch (“You’re so much better with that software than I am. So take this extra work off my hands.”) These praise erasers are the reason many employees will tell you that their bosses tend to deliver more negative than positive praise. We remember the negative because it causes an emotional reaction – and the positive, poorly delivered, can turn negative. To find out how you’re doing, try asking your employees a very simple question: “When it comes to feedback, is there anything you need more of – or less of – from me?” Then really listen. Because that, too, is a form of feedback that tells your people they matter to you. As you work on your full range of feedback skills, from positive to negative, remember: The most important thing leaders do is to help other people succeed. WHEN AND WHERE Jill Geisler is the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago and the author of “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know.” Her two-part session runs Sunday, Nov. 12 from 8:30 a.m. - noon.
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