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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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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure?

If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

Patterns From Childhood

Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

Over-Personalization

The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

False Self-Confidence

People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positive

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

    For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

    7. Learn From Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

    Reference

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