Leading with Trust

No Leadership Fear: Five Guidelines to Deliver Feedback for Results

Giving effective feedback on behavior or performance strikes fear in the heart of many leaders. This past week I spoke on this topic at the Ken Blanchard College of Business at Grand Canyon University, and when I asked audience members why this was the case, I heard reasons like this: fear of confrontation, a desire to avoid conflict, uncertainty about the way the receiver will react, or a lack of confidence and competence in their own abilities to deliver feedback in a constructive, positive way.

Receiving feedback is a natural part of life and it allows us to interpret our behavior and circumstances and make any necessary adjustments. If you touch a hot stove, what happens? You feel the heat and burn your fingers…that’s feedback! If you play golf and hit your drive into the pond…that’s feedback! If you make your wife angry and she forces you to sleep on the couch…that’s feedback! (And the subject of a different blog!)

Feedback is information about past behavior, delivered in the present, which may influence future behavior. Before you deliver feedback, you should assess the quality of the relationship with the receiver. Is there mutual respect and a good level of trust? Have you given feedback to this person before? If so, how did he/she react? Do you know their story – hopes, fears, struggles, family background – that influence the way they “show up” at work? If you don’t have a solid relationship with the receiver, the feedback will probably fall on deaf ears. Work on improving the relationship before delivering the feedback.

You should also check your motives before delivering feedback. Are you giving information, making a request, or making a demand? Are you hoping to improve the person’s performance or satisfying your ego by making a point? Make sure your motives are in the right place before delivering the feedback. Also, make sure there was clarity on the goals, roles, or expectations on the part of the receiver. It’s not fair to give someone feedback on their performance if they weren’t clear on what was expected in the first place. Leaders have to take responsibility for examining whether or not they set the receiver up for success or failure.

Once you’ve prepared, make sure you’re clear on the right type of feedback you need to deliver to produce the results you desire. There are four basic types of feedback:

  • Feedback on “What”—Feedback that provides objective information about results, end product(s), or outcomes
  • Feedback on “How”—Feedback that provides objective information about the process or way results are obtained
  • Praise—Emotion-revealing feedback designed to encourage certain desired behavior in the future
  • Disapproval—Emotion-revealing feedback designed to extinguish certain undesired behavior in the future

When you’re ready to deliver the feedback, it’s important you follow these basic guidelines:

  1. Give feedback on behaviors that can be changed, not on traits or personality. For example, saying “Sally, the way you interacted with that customer was unprofessional” isn’t very helpful in allowing Sally to know what to do differently. “Sally, you need to say ‘Hello’ to each customer when they walk through the door, introduce yourself by name, and offer to answer any questions” is much more specific and helpful to Sally.
  2. Be specific and descriptive, don’t generalize. Think of giving feedback as the front page of the newspaper, not the editorial page. Keep it focused, concise, and to the point and avoid rambling or going off on tangents.
  3. If possible, give feedback immediately. Perceptions change over the course of time and opens the door to misunderstandings or different interpretations of events. The longer you wait between the time the behavior occurs and when you give feedback, you run the risk of the “leave alone, ZAP!” problem: the receiver thinks everything is fine until, ZAP!, he/she gets zinged with some feedback about something that happened long ago. That creates resentment, animosity, and erodes trust.
  4. Control the context. Choose the right time of day, a neutral location, be calm, keep your emotions in check, and regulate your body language to make sure you provide an environment that will support the success of your message and not hinder it.
  5. Make it relevant and about moving forward. Dwelling on past behaviors or events that are unlikely to reoccur damages trust and inhibits your ability to provide constructive feedback in the future. Keep the feedback relevant to the situation at hand and focus on what needs to change in the future.

Trust earns you the right to give feedback, and trusted leaders have learned to deliver feedback in a way that enhances the relationships with their people as well as improves their performance. If leaders are committed to building trust and following these common sense guidelines, they need not have any fear about giving feedback.

Interview with the One Minute Manager – Three Secrets to Build Trust

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview the One Minute Manager for a blog article I wrote for LeaderChat.org. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of The One Minute Manager. With over 13 million copies sold in 37 languages, it’s one of the bestselling business books of all-time and continues to inspire leaders around the world with its practical wisdom on managing people. The elegantly simple techniques of One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Reprimands have enabled leaders and managers to be more productive, satisfied, and prosperous in their jobs.

I was particularly interested in the One Minute Manager’s (OMM) thoughts on what today’s leaders should be doing to build trust. Here’s what we discussed:

Randy: Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of your story being published. You must feel very proud.

OMM: I’m humbled that Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson felt my story was worth sharing and took the time to write a book about it. I’m gratified that it’s helped so many people.

Randy: I’m interested to know what you think leaders should be doing to build trust with their followers and stakeholders.

OMM: Well, I think having trustworthy relationships is the number one priority for leaders, and the three secrets support a leader in achieving that goal.

Randy: I thought the three secrets were techniques for managing people more effectively. Explain to me how they help leaders build trust.

OMM: One aspect of building trust is being competent in your role as a leader, and certainly practicing the three secrets displays your competence. Specifically, the first secret, One Minute Goals, allows leaders to build trust by setting clear performance expectations. People are more apt to trust you as a leader if you’re clear with them on what you expect them to do. Unclear expectations result in miscommunication, wasted energy, and ambiguity, which ultimately leads to mistrust of the leader.

Randy: So tell me how your second secret, One Minute Praisings, helps leaders build trust.

OMM: One of the easiest ways to build trust with others is to catch them doing something right! Recognizing and rewarding good work are key trust-building behaviors. When you take time to praise others, it shows that you value their contributions and you want them to succeed. If you fail to recognize the good work of your people, or even worse, hog the limelight and take credit for their work, you severely damage trust in the relationship. One Minute Praisings communicate care and concern, and when your people see that you care about them as individuals, they trust that you have good intentions toward them.

Randy: It’s amazing to see how One Minute Goals and One Minute Praisings support building trust. The third secret, One Minute Reprimands, seems a little counter-intuitive in regards to building trust. Help me understand.

OMM: On the surface it may seem counter-intuitive, but in reality, a One Minute Reprimand is another way of showing that you care about people and you want to help them succeed. When you give a One Minute Reprimand, you are reprimanding the behavior, not the person, and you’re giving the reprimand because you want to prevent that person from suffering the same mistake again in the future. People trust and respect leaders who give them honest, yet caring feedback about their performance. Leaders that hold themselves and others accountable create a culture of safety, security, and clear boundaries, which acts as a breeding ground for trust. A One Minute Reprimand is honest and caring feedback which is essential to have in a high-trust relationship.

Randy: Thank you for spending time with me. Your One Minute Secrets have helped me in my career as a leader and now I see how they’ve also helped me build trust with others.

OMM: It’s been my pleasure and I ask you to do just one thing: share it with others.

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