Last week I put together a proposal for a perspective client and had a colleague look at it before sending it out. After reading it, she pointed out some of the ways that I could improve the proposal, and did it in a way that left me feeling good about the whole exchange. I immediately made the changes that she recommended. It got me thinking about the skillful way that she made her suggestions and the art of giving effective feedback.
It’s such an integral part of building and maintaining strong relationships. We all need to be able to do it, but so often we have trouble with it. We stress about it, put it off and when it finally reaches a tipping point it often comes out in a way that ends up being seen as a personal attack or as unfair, or as just plain WRONG. It pushes the emotional buttons of the other person to the point where they become defensive and stop listening to the feedback. Feedback like that does no one any good. The good news is that there are a few simple rules to follow to make the feedback you give easier for others to hear and accept.
I was in Barbados conducting a leadership seminar. Nice work if you can get it, right? Especially since there was snow on the ground in Philly. I was having dinner at the open air restaurant on the second floor of the Hilton Resort looking out over a magnificent courtyard with pools, waterfalls and palm trees. It was beautiful! I watched a family of four – a Mom and Dad and two teenage kids – maneuver into the courtyard and select a centrally located table, pretty close to the pool and the trees. As they sat down, each one of them opened a device – laptops for the parents and tablets for the kids – and then they spent the next 45 minutes with their heads buried in their devices! Here they were in paradise, and they couldn’t even take advantage of it because of the virtual leash tying them to someone, somewhere else.
We were talking about building relationships in a personal leadership seminar I was teaching and Rachel brought up an interesting issue. She had been working hard to build a positive work relationship with one of her colleagues, but despite her best efforts, she didn’t feel that she had made much progress. She felt a bit frustrated and discouraged. She’d done everything she could think of, including grand gestures to win this person over, and despite his “thanks for the help” he always reverted back to the same apparent lack of interest. She was wondering what she was doing wrong and if it was a hopeless case.
I was leading a New Manager’s workshop for one of my clients and Matt brought up an issue: “I don’t understand why some of my team just seem to be going through the motions. They don’t take initiative, they don’t seem invested in what they’re doing, they don’t seem to want to be here. How do I motivate them?” That opened up the floodgates, with the majority of new managers in the room talking about the sad state of affairs of the motivation of the people that they managed. So I asked a question: “Can A Manager Motivate A Direct Report?” As they talked it through, it soon became apparent that it’s not a simple question. Motivation comes from within the individual. It’s an intrinsic force that energizes, directs and sustains our efforts. There’s no button you can push, as a manager, to turbocharge the motivation of your staff. Bummer!