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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 February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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