How to get feedback wrong

Years ago, when I was the general manager at a tech company — managing my first, real team — I was doing the annual performance review with one of the project managers. 

He was doing an excellent job, and I’d noted that in writing on the form that I handed him, but the CEO and I had noted some areas for improvement so as soon as he sat down, I enthusiastically dived in, telling him all the ways he could improve.

Until I noticed the stricken look on his face. 

He looked down at the written version of the review and said with relief, “Oh, it’s not actually that bad.”

“Of course not,” I said, “you’re doing a great job.” And then I proceeded to tell him verbally all the positive things I’d written.

Total rookie mistake: In my head, I knew he was doing a good job, but I had failed to communicate it and give him context.

Let me guess, you know feedback is important but you don’t want to get it wrong, so:

  • You only give feedback when there’s a problem or a concern, and you wait as long as possible hoping it will get better, because it feels like an emotional mine field that could blow up in your face.
  • You do the “shit sandwich,” where you cushion negative feedback with compliments.  But people don’t really believe the positive because they know it’s just a precursor to the ‘bad news.’
  • You give generic praise — “great job!” — that’s safe and easy but doesn’t give actionable guidance on what someone actually did well.
  • Or, you simply don’t bother saying anything: “Why should I praise them for just doing their job?” “Aren’t I just stating the obvious?” 

Here’s what happens when you do that. Your team becomes confused and demoralized, wondering if they’re doing it right. They focus on self-protection and making sure they don’t screw up instead of giving their all. Your superstar performers feel ignored and unappreciated, starved for ideas on how to get even better.

But what if…

You had a kind of X-ray vision to home in on each member of your team and give them specific guidance that amped up their desire to improve.
You had confidence in your ability to stay calm when things got emotional.
You knew exactly what to say to start off a difficult conversation on the right foot.
Everyday, you were building rapport and trust into the fabric of your team.

You see, when you get it right, feedback is a turbocharger for performance and productivity. 

If you want to be the kind of leader people walk through fire for, then you must master the art of feedback.

If you’re committed to leveling up your feedback and other leadership skills so you can build your dream team, click here and schedule a free Breakthrough Leadership session with me now.