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Make the People Around You Better: How to Give Feedback Like a Boss

Make the People Around You Better: How to Give Feedback Like a Boss

Learning how to give feedback is one of the hardest parts of being a leader—after all, you want a team that is producing the best work possible, and the only way to do that is to coach people on how to improve (since no one walks in the door already perfect).

Lots of leaders struggle for years before they figure our how to give feedback effectively.

So where do you start? Well, you could try the hint approach, where you give your feedback in the form of a question, like “have you thought about rearranging the format of your presentation?” This approach is non-confrontational, but you may not see the results you want since it depends on the other person being able to read your mind to figure out what needs to be improved—which few people can do.

Alternatively, if you use the blunt approach, where you make your disapproval clear and tell people exactly what’s wrong, you may get results at the cost of personal relationships and trust.

Both of these approaches have their problems. So, the question is: how can you give feedback and get results without just bossing people around?

We’ve come up with a list of tips to help you find a happy medium.

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1. Ask the recipient what they thought.

A great way to start the conversation and reflection process is to ask your employee a question that opens them up for introspection on their performance. Ask what they thought of the project, what they think they could improve on, and what they think went well. Do they feel the project was a success? What what their favorite part? Where did they struggle during preparation?

No matter what they say, this is a great way to open the discussion since it allows you to see things from their perspective.

Even if what they thought is completely different from your own opinion, this tells you exactly where to start from and what is most important to address. For example, “I think you did an awesome job answering the audience’s questions, but I agree, you could have addressed some of those points in the presentation itself.”

Continue using questions throughout the discussion, both to empower the employee (to coach them to come up with their own solutions to the problems and show them you trust them to do so) and to make sure you’re not using a heavy hand in the feedback. The best growth comes when the person feels they aren’t just being ordered to change, but they can see how and why they should make improvements.

2. Sandwich the feedback between two compliments.

With this approach, start by praising something that the person has been doing well, give your honest and direct feedback, and then close with another compliment.

For example, “Your recent work on the project is commendable—you’re putting in a lot of time and I appreciate that [compliment]. However, I think you need to spend more time addressing the complaints about the recent launch [criticism], though the complaints that you have already addressed have been handled professionally [compliment].”

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This way, the listener is more receptive to what you have to say and knows that you aren’t just seeing the negative aspects of their work. Note that this isn’t sugarcoating the feedback—you should still call it like you see it. However, this puts you and the feedback recipient on the same side. You’re both just trying to produce the best work possible.

3. Be timely.

The longer you wait to deliver feedback, the less helpful the feedback will be. If you see something that you want changed, let the person know immediately, so that they can make those changes. No one wants to find out what they could have done better when the only option left is their firing.

Plus, it is embarrassing to learn that something you’re doing has been a problem for a while, but you’re the last person to find out. Even though giving feedback can feel scary or uncomfortable to do as a manager, it is your job to step up and help people be better sooner rather than later. Show people that they can trust you by being transparent and open to helping them on their schedule.

4. Make the feedback about the project, not the person.

No one wants to be personally attacked, so make the feedback about the task, not the person. For example, say, “adding more detail to this slide will emphasize your point,” rather than, “the way you worded this slide is too confusing.”

We can’t travel back in time and prevent the mistakes we’ve made, so making people feel bad about their errors isn’t productive. However, looking back and troubleshooting problems is helpful—which is why focusing on actions and how they can be improved in the future is much more useful.

Of course, make sure you are still direct when delivering the message; beating around the bush doesn’t help you get what you want, and your employee is more likely to misunderstand the feedback. The point here is simply to not make it personal and instead focus on actions the person can take in the future.

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5. Suggest actionable steps.

Part of giving feedback is giving the person methods of improvement (since nobody comes to work to do a bad job on purpose).

Rather than just saying “do this better,” show the person how they can do something better. Not only does this make you a problem-solving boss, rather than a complaining boss, but the person will be much more likely to make the changes if they have ideas of *how* to change and what success looks like to you.

When people see you as someone who helps them get better, they’re less likely to make mistakes in the future too because they will be more willing to come to you for more constructive feedback along the way.

6. Focus on future, not the past.

Don’t focus too heavily on the negative—feedback is about helping the other person improve, not making them wallow in their mistakes.

7. Avoid “need to” phrases.

Telling an employee that they “need to” get reports in on time or “need to” change the presentation format will put them on the defensive and possibly make them resentful.

Instead, provide context. When a person understands why something needs to be a certain way, they’re a lot more likely to do it successfully than if they’re just given a straight directive with no reasoning. If someone always turns in their reports late, try explaining what that delay means for the rest of the team or why the report needs to be done at all. People are more likely to help you when they know why it matters.

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8. Give a personal example.

When appropriate, this is a great way to put the feedback recipient at ease. Providing a personal example of when you’ve encountered a similar issue will show that they aren’t the only person to make this mistake. It puts you back on a more even playing field. Something as simple as “I learned this the hard way” will often do the trick.

9. Provide the reasoning.

People like to understand the rationale behind suggestions, since if it makes sense to them, they are much more likely to make the change. Providing your analysis, rather than just your opinion, dramatically increases the likelihood that you will see a change.

10. A great way to condition your team to be receptive of feedback is to make regular, low-key feedback common.

The more consistent the feedback and open the communication, the more open your team will be to the feedback once they see how the changes help. If individuals aren’t used to hearing feedback, it can be difficult to process the suggestions beyond the initial belief that they’ve done something terribly wrong. Encourage honesty and constant communication in the workplace.

11. One more thing—follow up with your employee about the feedback.

Doing this shows that you were serious about making changes. If the employee has already implemented the changes, let them know that you recognize and value their receptiveness. Everyone wants bonus points with the boss, and positive reinforcement will encourage receptiveness in the future.

 

Next time you spot a problem and want to provide feedback, try out a few of these tips. If you have other ideas, leave them in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Danbo conoce a Domo – Danbo meets Domo / Guillermo Viciano via flickr.com

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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?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

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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