Far too often, managers either shy away from giving constructive feedback (or feedforward) or engage in it in entirely unhealthy ways. The challenge is that how feedback is given is equally, if not more important that the feedback itself. Used correctly, criticism can improve performance, foster greater trust, build mutual respect and advance shared goals. Used incorrectly, and its the recipe for unhealthy relationships.
Like most things in life, giving constructive criticism can be learned. And when done well becomes a cornerstone of empathetic leadership.
Below are some tips to foster engaged teams and inspired work cultures based on healthy, emotionally intelligent feedback.
Be Very Specific
Far too often, managers offer criticism is sweeping, general terms. And when this happens, employees are far more likely to feel judged, with little insight into how to remedy the challenge at hand.
Bosses skilled at constructive criticism, by contrast, are very specific. More, they encourage their team members to problem solve with them.
Make it Personal
At the end of the day, people can only be motivated if they are intrinsically inclined to do so. And as a manager, one of your key duties is to know just what compels your staff as individuals. When challenges arise (like they always do), being able to link the challenge to an employee’s key drivers, values, or belief makes the motivation to change that much more real.
For example, if an employee is perpetually late to meetings, you might ask, “John, I know how much you value and appreciate your team members, and I know you wouldn’t purposely try to impact your working relationships with colleagues by arriving late. What’s going on?”
Be careful here: linking values to behaviours can easily be seen as manipulation if not approached empathetically and with genuine care.
Deliver with Care
Body language and tone constitutes upwards of 80% of the information conveyed in a conversation. As such, it is important to be mindful of not just the words you say, but how you are saying them. And in what posture. Some will say that criticism should be delivered as matter of factly as possible. Personally, I think this runs the risk of coming across as cold and uncaring. Empathy goes a long ways, and is the emotion that humans most readily respond to. Sadly, its one of our most underemployed emotions.
One Size Does Not Fit All
The hardest part about being a good leader is knowing that there isn’t just one thing to do. Feedback, like leadership, requires adapting your style depending on the situation you’re in and the person you’re engaging with. This is emotional intelligence at its core.
Here’s a tip: prior to ever having to deliver feedback to an employee, ask him how he likes to receive it. One-on-one or written down? When it happens or sometime later? Your office or his?
For more information on creating a highly attuned EQ in your workplace or creating a culture where employees are delighted to come to work, feel free to contact Casey Miller, President of Six and a Half Consulting at Casey@SixandaHalfConsulting.com