There’s No Tiptoeing Around It

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It’s not surprising to hear many of my leadership training participants say they avoid or delay giving constructive feedback.

There are several reasons given but, mostly, to avoid confrontation. They do not want to hurt the other person or strain the relationship.

The truth is that you are shirking your responsibilities by avoiding unacceptable performance. There’s no tiptoeing around it. Leaders should be engaging in crucial conversations. You owe it to yourself, your organization, and most importantly, your employees.

To be a great leader, occasionally you must give constructive criticism or tough feedback. It helps employees grow. How will they know if they are doing things right or wrong if they are not told?

Avoiding potential conflict often leads to resentment, a breakdown in trust between yourself and the individual, and further miscommunication.

The Sandwich Method

There are several strategies to help with addressing unacceptable behaviour or poor performance. I prefer the Sandwich Method: Start with a positive, share the negative, and close with a positive.

Quite simply, your two slices of bread are your positive comments and the ‘inside’ is your corrective behaviour observation. Some may see this as being manipulative and say it’s best to be direct and truthful. This is being direct and truthful; it’s making a difficult conversation less convoluted.

To mitigate anxiety on both sides of the feedback equation, when positively addressed it will infuse motivation to change or improve.

Whatever the method, take time to prepare by thinking through what you will say and how you will say it; anticipate the questions and how you might respond.

Here are some important considerations when delivering negative feedback:

  1. Create a safe environment (do it in private and allow enough time for a two-way conversation)
  2. Do not make it personal (focus on behaviour, not personality)
  3. Be mindful of your tone and body language (keep your tone informal and avoid judgmental language)
  4. Listen (help make them feel heard and respected) and offer support (review expectations)

Giving feedback to your employees, particularly when they do not meet performance expectations, is a responsibility you must accept as a leader.

Negative feedback is better than no feedback.