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“I would like to give you a little feedback” is often received with a shudder or some other physical manifestation of anxiety. The history of feedback is routinely polarizing. We get feedback on a great job or we get feedback on a really poor job. Sadly, when we get feedback on doing great work, it is usually called “praise” and feedback on clusterbombs is called, well…feedback.

Feedback is perceived, in many places, as the great demotivator. This is possibly why so many people shy away from it -- asking for it or even just hearing it. Weirder yet, do you ever think that people who ask for feedback are secretly craving compliments? What an organization that craved feedback would be like? Here are a few thoughts on feedback that might make your life easier and create a more motivating environment:

1. When Has the Line Been Crossed?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you willing to walk by?
  • Where are your lines for acceptable and unacceptable behavior?

Everyone has a different filter. When your line is crossed, connect with that person and discuss: what they are doing that is unacceptable, why it is unacceptable, and the implications of this behavior.

Your managerial obligation is to be consistent and fair. If you don’t know where to start to understand your filter, take a good long look at your organization’s core values. They are there for a reason. Please exercise caution around this principle. I shared this principle with a former manager who misunderstood the principle and couldn’t let anything pass without comment. Her filter ended up being stifling and took the personality out of the environment. Everyone resented her and became fearful to have their own, independent thoughts.

2. Feedback Should be Developmental

Feedback should be developmental and given to everyone. Managers frequently either praise or criticize extremes, and that middle ground is often overlooked. That middle ground is where the ripe coaching opportunities exist.

Great managers are great coaches. They look for every opportunity to make their teams and the individuals on those teams great.

Any manager on the planet should be able to recognize and make the time to reward strong performance. The vast majority of managers should also be able to point out when clusterbombs occur.

Great managers that want to motivate teams seek every opportunity to make people better. Their feedback is genuine. If you do this regularly, and you honestly want to build teams, feedback not only sits well, it inspires.

3. Embrace Gamification

We are, as Eliot Aronson wrote, social animals and today social media is pervasive.  We go on yelp to find restaurants, Pinterest to repin decorating ideas and we “+1” on Google+.

If your organization has a system to provide feedback through gamification strategies like badges, use them. When organizations start to leverage these tools, they become part of the cultural fabric. It takes a creative minority dedicated to positive change to become a critical mass. Find a group of people dedicated to embracing this technology and leverage it to change your feedback culture.  People want feedback. It is the context that drives that desire.

4. Be Cool About Giving Feedback, But Be Straight About It

If I were to oversimplify the role of a manager, it is about setting expectations/goals, monitoring performance, providing support and feedback.  Repeat.

A simple rule I coach people on: be straight with your employees. If somebody really did a poor job, you have to tell them they did a poor job. But be cool about it. Tell them exactly what they did poorly and coach them to understand what they could have done differently. Even the best employees, the superstars, can grow. Even Muhammad Ali had someone working his corner.

5. Use Technology to Make Feedback More Intimate

If you are a remote manager and have to give difficult feedback but can’t meet in person, harness technology other than a phone.  Use a video conferencing system like Skype or BlueJeans to have a meeting where you can make the conversation more personal.

 

Motivation, to a great extent, stems from clarity. Managers create that clarity by setting distinct expectations as well as delivering consistent feedback.

Feedback shouldn’t be scary. Feedback should be desired. It should be delivered regularly as a way to continue to inspire and motivate your team because teams (and individuals on those teams) are more motivated when they feel invested in. Delivering productive, constructive feedback is one core way to invest in the development of your team.