Welcome to this final edition of our newsletter for 2012. We thank all of you, our dedicated readers for your support throughout the year. This year has been a tumultuous year with regime changes in the middle-east, continuing financial insecurity in Europe and the winning of a second term for President Obama in the U.S. No doubt, 2013 will see no let up in the pace and significance of change around the world.
On the business front, companies continue to grapple with changes to taxation regimes as governments seek to reign in debt. In this post-GFC environment, the rate of company takeovers remains unabated as the weak fall by the wayside. At the same time, there is renewed interest in making the most of the human capital that remains after significant downsizing. People issues, such as performance management, compensation strategies and employee engagement, are getting greater attention in the boardroom.
In that vein, our feature article this month is entirely apt. Our expert author examines some practical strategies and tips for giving and receiving feedback in the workplace. The frequency and quality of communication, and feedback in particular, continue to figure highly on employee surveys gauging what motivates employees to superior performance.
We trust you enjoy this month's Business Performance newsletter.
Do you need help with your current or future project? Are you looking for a professional trainer, facilitator or coach? Check out our dedicated team of experts ready to assist you in a variety of specialized fields. In this issue, we introduce you to our negotiation expert, Peter Spence. Find out what Peter is up to in Meet Our Expert of the Month.
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Constructive Feedback in the Workplace
by Jennifer McCoy
Strategies for Sharing Constructive Feedback
"What can you say to your employees and how can you say it?"
"Where can you give and receive feedback?"
"How can you bring out the best in your staff?"
"How do you handle difficult issues without inflaming the situation?"
"How do you respond to negative feedback yourself?"
These are common questions, many of them reflecting frustration and fear of dealing with the "hard stuff" of managing people. But giving constructive feedback to employees doesn't have to be difficult.
Positive feedback, when you tell people they've done well, should be easy. For example:
- thanking people for doing a job well
- commending them for solving a problem for you
- discussing progress with teams and praising their commitment
- celebrating successes when everyone's combined efforts have paid off
This is the kind of feedback that everyone likes; the kind that motivates people to perform well consistently. Here are some more practical strategies for improving feedback at work.
Give Feedback to Encourage Employees
Give feedback to encourage people to continue "putting-in" great effort, or to help them through setbacks, or when people lack confidence or skills. Respect people for the value of their time, their work and their commitment. Show your respect with words that make employees feel good.
Try saying, "You're right!" when someone successfully challenges an idea or work practice. Ask, "Can you spare a few minutes?" when you need to interrupt someone at work. Then wait for the positive reactions.
Use Feedback to Overcome Negativity
A leader must remain optimistic at all times, but how can you convert negativity into something positive? When someone says, "That's a stupid idea!" you could respond, "How could we change it to make it more realistic?" Try the ideas in my guide, 2 Way Feedback, and then add your own.
Coaching Is the Best Feedback
Coaching is the best kind of feedback. Coaching is based on mutual respect, strict confidentiality and trust. A coach believes that people are able to change the way they operate and achieve more if they are given the opportunity and are willing to do something about it.
Questioning is a fundamental skill of coaching. A coach asks questions to:
- assess where the person might need help
- discover how s/he can best help
- help people find solutions for themselves.
Get help with how to ask questions and what questions to ask. Coaching strategies then vary according to the willingness and the skills of the person.
Turn Criticism into Constructive Feedback
Avoid feedback that however unintentionally criticizes the employee rather than their actions. If you leave them feeling humiliated and resentful, they will be even more reluctant to change. You can't ignore the problem if something is obviously wrong, but there is a difference between criticism and constructive feedback.
Talking about a "bad attitude" is unlikely to be helpful because the person won't know what they need to change. Telling someone they are incompetent or lazy is a personal attack on their character and will probably lead to an emotional response.
Constructive criticism means starting from a different position. Your criticism should be factual, impersonal and timely. The value of changing their behavior must also be clear. You might say, "This week I've noticed you've been late to three sales briefings and now you want to leave early today for a dental appointment. When you behave so casually the rest of the team feel resentful and tomorrow someone will have to do your work for you. So what can we do about it?" Now here's a chance for the person to respond.
Giving Feedback in Really Difficult Situations
Some situations may have you feeling anxious and finding the right words to say at that moment may not come easily. So, next time you are about to face a really difficult situation, try this four-step plan:
- Prepare yourself - checking facts and positions, dealing with feelings.
- Approach the situation constructively - using the right words that you have prepared.
- Deal with excuses - respectfully.
- Make sure people can do what they say they will.
Encouraging Feedback from Others
Do you listen when your staffs complain about a customer or a situation? Or do you dismiss their comments because they haven't happened to you? As a business owner or manager you need feedback to find out immediately if something is wrong, or to hear what a customer has said, or if relationships are growing tense.
How do you encourage that kind of feedback? Listen to what people have to say. True listening isn't all that easy. Try listening to your staff, actively listening, even though your schedule is full and business is frantic, and see how trust develops.
Accepting Negative Feedback
Negative feedback? It's a little like letting the genie out of the bottle and then finding you can't put it back. However, accepting negative feedback gracefully and gratefully is a skill of great leadership. Remember, though, other people may not know how to give negative feedback diplomatically, like you have. So take a deep breath and swallow your pride.
You may find these guidelines useful when receiving negative feedback.
- Listen without interruption - you may learn something of real value.
- If you hear something you don't agree with, simply say, "That's interesting!" and discuss it at the end.
- Ask questions to clarify what exactly went wrong; what you did or didn't do.
- Acknowledge what is true, but don't necessarily change your position - you may have good reasons for your actions.
- Before taking any action, ask for time to think and then get back to the person.
Can feedback really help to improve working relationships and productivity? Remember, feedback doesn't always have to be negative. Start by looking for occasions when you can give positive feedback and remember to plan carefully for the occasions when you have to give negative feedback - and make it constructive. Try some of these ideas and see what happens.
Jennifer McCoy is a business performance coach and author of 2 Way Feedback, a practical guide to building trust and creating a high performance culture in your workplace. Find out more about 2 Way Feedback and download the free Introductory Chapter today.
Check out our recently released business articles and expert views.
Give a Business Performance Gift
With the onset of the festive season, now is the time to start thinking about gifts. Did you know that you can easily buy any of our products as a gift for your friends, family and colleagues? Simply look for the Give as a gift? option on the second page of the online order form. You will be asked to enter the gift recipient information and a personal message. After you place the order, you will receive an order confirmation via email and your gift recipient will receive an email with instructions on how to receive the gift. What could be easier? If you are looking to reward your top performers in your workplace, why not reward them with a book or tool that will aid their professional development?
Meet Our Expert of the Month - Peter Spence
Have you met our team of expert consultants, coaches and trainers? This month we proudly feature Peter Spence. Peter is an expert negotiator, consultant and trainer with over 18 years' experience in negotiation practice and mediation. He has prepared and delivered negotiation skills training to company Executives, CEOs, Directors, finance and medical professionals and has facilitated a number of strategic planning sessions. Peter describes his approach as "working from a position of mutual trust and respect for all parties in a dispute."
Peter recently conducted a negotiation training workshop for a large mining company and is currently consulting to two Primary Health organizations. Contact us today to find out more about how Peter Spence can help you.
Visit our web site at www.BusinessPerform.com for lots of expert guidance and practical tools designed to help you get ahead of your competition. Also, be sure to pass this newsletter on to friends and colleagues who want to stay up with what's on. From all of us here on the Business Performance team, we wish you a safe and joyous festive season and look forward to communicating with you again in the New Year.