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10 Tips for Giving Feedback That Will Build a Team You Love to Work With

10 Tips for Giving Feedback That Will Build a Team You Love to Work With

You will find that you love working with your team when you commit to supporting and developing their work and their growth. The only way to do this? Give excellent feedback.

Here are 10 critical tips every manager must use to build a team that is a pleasure to work with:

1. Your feedback is your product.

If you are a master brewer, you put time, energy, and expertise into creating the best beer possible. That beer is your product, and you constantly look for ways to improve. When you are a manager, your product is your feedback. Put as much effort into producing and improving the feedback you give. As you improve your product delivery, your team will improve theirs, too.

2. Before giving feedback, set clear expectations.

Technically, it’s not feedback unless you gave your team clear expectations. It’s not fair or relevant to hold someone accountable for a specific objective or procedure when they didn’t know about it. You can’t assume they know. You must be clear and specific, and share the rationale of each objective to improve buy-in.

If you recognize that clear expectations are missing in your team, it’s not too late. Pull your team together, take responsibility (see Tip#9), and set clear expectations, in writing preferably.

3. Reinforce the foundation before you remodel.

Giving positive feedback reinforces the foundation of any working relationship. When I know that you value the work I do and that you trust and respect me, I can feel coached on my development, not attacked for my shortcomings.

It has been proven in multiple research studies that the most effective feedback is given in a ratio of at least seven positives to one corrective message. Every human has a genuine need for approval. Corrective feedback, no matter how well delivered or deserved, takes a significant toll on our sense of approval. Too much correction without reinforcing and people start feeling resentful. Then they may under-produce to regain a sense of control or because they don’t understand how to regain approval.

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Develop a habit of giving specific positive feedback as a habit. It’s doesn’t take much time to say, “Hey, I appreciate your work on the sales report.” If you write it on a sticky note, it has three times the impact, too!

4. Look for the flaw in the system first.

Before giving corrective feedback, investigate the system. This may take more of your time on the front end. However, it will save you from firing, re-hiring, and training new staff only to discover the same problem arising again. Is the problem in the personnel or in the system the personnel are using to reach the desired outcome? Investigate from multiple perspectives, not just your own.

5. Know the difference between performance and style.

Performance: Does the job get done effectively and efficiently? When giving feedback on performance, use specific measurable observations. Examples: the report was in two hours late; your sales increased by 10%; you have been involved in five safety incidents in the past six months. State clearly what you want to change or continue.

Style: How does the job get done? When giving feedback on style, explore the advantages and disadvantages of the methods used. Examples: you tend to be very social with the customers; you walk in the door right at 9 and leave right at 5; you tend to talk more in meetings than others. Help the person see how the style has benefits and costs, and support them as they consider how changing their style could create more benefits for them and the team.

6. To nip or not to nip…

When do you “nip things in the bud,” coming down with loud and clear correction? General rule: when there is a clear and present danger.

Think of it like driving in a car with someone you care about. Should you yell “Look out!” when he rolls through a stop sign, or when he’s going off the road? If you want to stay in the car, you save the yelling for the major danger.

If he’s frequently rolling through stop signs and it’s your job to help him become a better driver, then you can give some style feedback about the pattern you noticed.

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Otherwise, let the poor guy drive!

7. Choose the right time and place.

There are circumstances when feedback is best given in private and others when feedback is better shared in public. Some feedback is better received right after an event. But there are times when it better to wait a bit before giving feedback.

How do you know? One way is to ask. Talk to each person on your team, and ask them when and where they like to hear different kinds of feedback. Do what you can to honor their preferences. Also, let them know that they can always change their minds.

Pay close attention to your emotional state when giving feedback. High emotion states may not be productive times to give masterful feedback. Give yourself time to process some of the emotion before entering into a feedback-sharing conversation if possible. This may seem to contradict the previous Tip#6 about nipping, so let me explain. In a high emotion state, you can give a clear directive. Then, once you have processed, open up the conversation for more in-depth feedback.

8. Stop serving “Poop Sandwiches.”

A common strategy for giving feedback is often referred to as The Poop Sandwich (G-rated version). People are taught that if they have corrective feedback, they should first say something positive, then give the corrective, then follow-up with positive.

“You’re really great around the office, but your presentations are weak. You’re still doing a good job overall.”

Instead of this rather cowardly tactic, consider being bravely supportive.

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When something isn’t working well, address it specifically and ask for a commitment to change.

“Thank you for your time. In your presentation, I had a difficult time hearing you and there wasn’t enough supporting research to create a convincing case. You are a valuable member of our team, and I want to help you improve. Are you open to working on this?”

If the person won’t acknowledge the problem or isn’t willing to work on improving, then you just identified a bigger problem. If they are willing to change but you don’t have the time or resources to help, find someone who does.

9. Take full responsibility for your actions.

If you want your feedback to lead to improvements on your team, you need to role model how to take full responsibility.

Many managers will take partial responsibility. “I’ll take responsibility, but everyone else played a part in the failure. I still take some of the blame.”

That’s a Gourmet Poop Sandwich.

If you really want to love your team, be bold enough to take full responsibility. “I take 100% responsibility. The buck stops here. I didn’t provide what was needed, and we didn’t get the results we wanted. Let’s look at what happened and learn from it.”

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When the leader sincerely takes responsibility, it gives permission for others to do the same. It creates a culture of solution-finding instead of blame-finding.

10. Create a culture of feedback.

If feedback is only a one-way street, all the previous tips may still fail to create a team you love to work with. You must facilitate a way for your team to share productive feedback with each other. When a team talks behind each others’ backs, it’s a sign that they don’t feel supported in a culture of feedback sharing.

Most importantly, you must actively seek and receive feedback from your team. This may be the hardest part (which is why it’s so rare), but it is critical. While many people falsely believe that it’s best when their team fears them, this actually chokes off your team from sharing critical information with you.

Just saying, “My door is always open,” isn’t enough. Go out of your door, or invite each of them in. Ask, “So, what do you see that I’m not seeing? How can I do better?” And listen.

If you need help improving your skills in entering into feedback, find a good coach. It will be the best investment you can make in creating your dream team. We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our families. Why work with a team you don’t love?

What ‘s been the hardest part of giving feedback for you? Which of these tips will make the biggest change in how you give feedback in your team? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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