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The Importance of Dignified Feedback

Prepare yourself for the tough conversations


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Is Colorado the worst place to work in the country? Does it have terrible, poorly trained managers? Without training, people in leadership roles think their job is a big picture activity, but they are wrong. Being a great leader means we are managing as well, and this is a learned skill. Unfortunately, very few companies invest in teaching this.

First, it's important to talk about the importance of using the right management style at the right time given the employee's confidence and ability to do the job. Micromanaging and under-managing employees are the top reasons people hate their jobs. But there is an easy model to figure out what style to use when. It's also necessary to talk about the importance of managing emotions at work.

The third piece of the puzzle is providing dignified feedback.

Have you ever watched someone berate someone else – just tear them apart? What emotion do you feel as you watch this event unfold?

For most people, it's a sense of horror and embarrassment for both parties. We usually feel bad for the person who's being yelled at, and we feel anger for the person who's doing the yelling. At work, when we know more of the story, we usually tolerate this behavior as feedback. But at its core, it's humiliating for both parties. Feedback is essential to being a successful manager and leader, but it must be dignified.

A few years back, I made a quick hiring decision and did not follow the proper protocol. Within a few weeks, my new employee was failing to perform, creating conflict and costing money. While I was trying to use emotional intelligence, I found myself on the verge of yelling at her to just do her job. I was in for a challenging feedback conversation – we both needed to adjust.

There are two methods I could take to provide adequate feedback to achieve different results.

I could say: "You're pissing me off. The entire team feels the weight of your drama and I'm sick of it. Snap out of it and start doing what you were hired for – Sell!" She would have been disgraced, and I wouldn't have done anything to help her. 

When I must have a difficult conversation, I prepare by thinking through the following steps:

  • What's my desired outcome?
  • What will probably become a trigger for me?
  • What might trigger the other person?
  • What is the specific action I would like for them to take?

In this case, my desired outcome was I wanted her to get to know the team better; I wanted to tee up some warm sales calls and I wanted her to stay with us. I knew that her trigger point was that she didn't take feedback well and would likely get defensive.

Practice giving the feedback to yourself in a dignified fashion, so you feel proud. There are several ways to start such a conversation:

  • "Here's how I see things going..."
  • "I like," or "I wish..."
  • "I want you to be successful at reaching your goal. How can I support you?"

You will benefit from knowing each person's strength. 

Running a business is about results, not just the team. Everyone must hit their goals to keep the train on the tracks. 

Some conversations, to achieve these results, are challenging. But better dignified than embarrassing for everyone involved.

If you're giving feedback, and you know you could come across as a jerk, try again. Your goal is to empower your people as a leader. You want your employees to feel great. You will not benefit from an unhappy staff, because those same people won't be able to take care of your customers, aren't easy to manage, do not care about your profit goals, etc.

Practice being deliberate. Practice refining. Don't be nervous about hard conversations. Lead less. Manage more.

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Kendra Prospero

Kendra Prospero founded Turning the Corner to help people connect to work they love and to end suffering in the workplace. She helps companies fully support their employees and helps individuals find jobs they are passionate about. Kendra believes that people who love their jobs are happier, more productive, easier to manage, and are all around better workers. Turning the Corner helps people and businesses transform the way they think and feel about work. Contact her at 720-466-8876 or info@turningthecornerllc.com.

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