February 27, 2017
How to Give Your Team Feedback That Works

A frequent question from leaders is how to change someone on their team who is not performing in a way they want. The question is usually preceded by a long diatribe and complaint about the staff member's performance.

We need to engage in a lot of back and forth to get to the root of the issue because the leader's complaints are at an abstract level that won't result in change. He or she might say, for example, that their chief financial officer gives them informa-tion that is too detailed and neglects to provide the kind of strategic thinking that they need. 

"Be behaviorally specific in your performance feedback"

The leader is giving the employee feedback that they want their CFO to be more strategic but without the specifics of what the leader means by that. If you are a detail oriented person, that kind of directive may be meaningless to you.
What Should You Do?   
Be behaviorally specific in your performance feedback. Instead of saying that you want more strategic thinking in the example above, the leader should give specific examples of the behavior that they do or do not want. 
For example:
"Ms. CFO - in the meeting about our acquisition of ABC company, you provided me with all the extensive numbers that your team had collected about rentals for last year. I don't need that level of detail. I trust you and your team. What I need from you is the bottom line: based on the financial projections that you've prepared, should we acquire this company, along with a brief summary of your reasoning."
The leader should go on to provide two or three other examples about what the leader does or does not want in terms of behavior in a specific situation. As always with performance feedback, this feedback should be provided in person, or on the phone if you can't meet with them, but not over email.
A good practice worth implementing is to then ask the employee to email you back their understanding of what you said. That way you have good documentation and a chance to ensure they understand what you said.
While a direct report may not be capable of giving you want you want - if they're in the wrong job, for example- fairness requires that you give them this kind of feedback in order to give them an opportunity to change.

Did You Know?

All our management and leadership training includes information on how to give feedback that works. For more information, call or write us at: 303-216-1020 or [email protected]

Read Lynne's book "We Need to Talk - Tough Conversations with Your Employee" and learn to handle everything from performance reviews to terminations with sensitivity and smarts. 

Workplaces That Work | (303) 216-1020 | [email protected] 
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