Has anyone ever asked you if you were open to some feedback? If so, you were probably thinking ‘No.’ but what you actually said was ‘Sure.’ Then you braced yourself for the brilliant observation that was about to be shared with you while you feigned a look of intrigue and fascination.
Some people think they are doing you a favor by giving unsolicited feedback. The truth is it is just their opinion and opinions are not gifts. Opinions are self-serving beliefs based on individual values and experiences. The only purpose for giving unsolicited feedback is to make another person conform to your preferences.
There are three scenarios in which I am open to unsolicited advice:
- I’m paying you. You are my coach and I’m paying you a lot of money to tell me what I can do to improve.
- You’re paying me. If you are my client, I’m open to everything you have to say.
- You are my manager. I’m self-employed now so I don’t have one of those but when I did I wanted my manager to give me feedback.
Feedback is a gift when it is done with the intention of helping another person succeed. Unless you have direct control or influence over that leave it alone.
If you are a manager it’s your duty to give people the gift of feedback. A manager who doesn’t provide input on performance deprives others of the opportunity to succeed. People who view feedback as a gift are the ones who strive to excel.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions. – Ken Blanchard
There are three questions in the Gallup State of the American Workplace report, the gold standard of employee engagement data, that directly relate to the idea that employees want feedback. Examine one of those questions and it’s clear employees want your feedback:
In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
Let’s be clear, when people are completing the survey the ‘someone’ they have in mind is their manager. Talking with someone about their progress will inevitably include two things: what they are doing well and what they can do to improve. According to the Gallup report, employee engagement is only 30%. That is a good indicator that there is work to be done.
The first thing a manager can do to improve their skill in giving commentary is to change their mindset. Most managers don’t view feedback as a gift. In fact, most managers equate giving feedback with conflict and stress. Who wants that? No one wants that and the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are 3 components to giving feedback that will be received as a gift…
Have you ever received a gift that wasn’t wrapped very well but what was on inside was invaluable? While the packaging isn’t as important as the gift, we can all try a little harder to improve our packaging. That means watching your words and your tone. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.
Some managers give beautifully wrapped gifts topped with a bow but there is nothing inside. A performance review with the highest rating and vague comments like ‘great job’ and ‘keep up the good work’ can come across as empty, especially without a promotion. A slightly lower rating with something concrete to work on will motivate your top performers.
We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve. – Bill Gates
Be concrete. This is the key because even if your presentation needs some work, you can still deliver value. This is also the hardest part of giving feedback. The value of feedback comes from providing input on the things that matter. What matters? The actions required to meet the expectations of the job. People will respect what you inspect and you can’t hold people accountable if they don’t know what you’re measuring. Nothing will make the job of giving feedback easier than to have well-defined measurements in place.
The last step to giving feedback that is received as a gift is to provide resources to help them gain the skills they need to be successful. This could include books, training, and coaching. I had a manager who was a great mentor. She gave me feedback about which skills I needed to develop to keep moving up the ladder but she didn’t leave it to me to figure out how to build those skills. I didn’t know. She gave me books on how to be a better listener and developing emotional intelligence. She sent me to seminars and enrolled me in leadership development programs. Those were amazing gifts and I’m still getting value from them to this day.
Don’t ask people if they’re open to advice. If you have to ask permission, it’s none of your business. If you’re a manager, it’s part of your job and you don’t need permission to do your job. If you’re not doing your job, hopefully someone will give you the gift of feedback so you can be an exceptional leader.
Liz Uram is a national leadership speaker who helps leaders get better results through clear communication. Request your free copy of the C.O.R.E. Feedback Formula here.