Thursday, March 27, 2014

4 Tips For Giving Better Feedback

For me the purpose of feedback is simple, to help an individual realize their goals and help them grow in the best way for them.

Before we get into the details of feedback, I did want to underscore the importance of building a strong foundation with folks before you give them feedback. This foundation will serve as the "lens" through which they view the feedback. If you have a great relationship with the receiver of the feedback, they would likely view that feedback in a positive light and know that your intentions are genuine. There was a saying that we used to have at one of my jobs, it was "Always assume good intent".

Below are 4 tips to give better feedback:

Are they ready? 
How will the recipient take the feedback. Will they get defensive, how can you help them understand your intent and put their guard down. Let's face it, there are always those folks that will always be defensive or take your feedback the wrong way. In those scenarios I try to help them realize how others perceive them or may interpret their actions. It becomes less about what they could have done better and more about understanding the broader context of how their actions impact other's perceptions of them. As a manager (or even an employee) you should ALWAYS have the courage to give the feedback even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation.

Understand the context
As a manager, you want the receiver of the feedback to have a broader sense of why they are frustrated or why they need the feedback. Here's a great example, many years ago I had an employee come to me during a 1on1 and wonder why they weren't moving forward in their career. Rather than explaining to them all the reasons why they weren't succeeding and giving them ideas to improve, I drew this on the white board and asked him to write down on a sheet a paper where he thought he was on that scale and I would do the same.

And we each took a couple of minutes to think about it. And I wrote down a 4 and the employee wrote down a 3. We discussed why they felt that they were a 3. They realized that they weren't that passionate about their projects and they just weren't really hitting "home runs"...they were content to hit singles and doubles (so to speak). Once we had that conversation they came to realize for themselves how they can improve. That exercise helped them realize on their own why they weren't moving forward and prevented them from getting defensive about it. That is the difference between telling and teaching :)

Be Specific
Try and use specific examples where a situation could have been handled differently. Timeliness is also important. I don't recommend giving feedback on something months after it happens. I tend to try and give positive feedback almost immediately. For example, "Good job handling that meeting and the objection that was raised". For constructive feedback, I tend to want to mention it after I have had some time to think about the specific event. I generally like to jot down what happened and maybe some options on how to handle it differently. After some thought, I'll typically bring it up during our regularly scheduled 1on1. The key when you are specific and timely is that you are helping the employee focus on the particular action/event that needs improvement while it is still fresh in their mind rather than some general feedback that they will have a hard time translating to a change in their behavior.

Make it regular
Feedback can be spontaneous (e.g. great job on that presentation) but it also needs to have regular intervals. I like to give feedback on a monthly basis and am always willing to receive feedback. Make it an agenda item for your 1on1s. I try and take notes throughout the month of little things and use my 1on1 to give/receive feedback on those. For example, say I gave a talk at a company/business unit meeting about a particular topic. I may ask for feedback from some folks afterwards and make sure I note to ask for feedback from my manager at our next 1on1. Part of making it an ongoing thing, is that it forces you to be prepared to give feedback.

Ultimately giving and receiving feedback should happen often enough that it is viewed as something that is encouraged. Feel free to leave any tips or comments on the art of giving feedback!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The "Pleaser", "Boss" and, "Excluder" - The 3 Worst Types of Managers

We have all had managers that just did some things that got under our skin. I suspect that we have had managers or people that we have worked with that maybe have exhibited some of these traits. I have and I just wanted to share to help the community of managers and non-managers alike. Feel free to leave a comment
  1. The "Pleaser" - You would think that the "pleaser" would be a good thing. This manager is out to make sure you are happy, right? Wrong...they are solely focused on pleasing their manager and managing up. For example:
    1. They prevent you from attending meetings as they are worried that you will say something that is not aligned with what they have been telling people. 
    2. They constantly talk about framing everything the right way, when in reality they are obfuscating the truth so that they always present a rosy picture.
    3. They change their mind depending on the pay grade of the person making a suggestion. They will never disagree with certain folks.
  2. The "Boss" - This is the manager that doesn't really listen to what you are saying. They think about what they are going to say and aren't interested in digging into what you are saying or the point you are trying to make. They want to talk in order to sound authoritative or in charge. For example:
    1. You say something in a meeting and literally five seconds later they repeat it slightly differently as way to show that they are somehow in command of the situation.
    2. They are too focused on their meetings and schedules to make time for you. Constantly managing up takes time...too much time for you.
    3. They are never wrong. They never take responsibility for their own actions or contributions to the challenges you are facing.
  3. The "Excluder" - This is a manager that only shares something if you ask for it. You always feel excluded. Sometimes you don't even know what is going with your product and sometimes you are the last to know. For example:
    1. Your manager has been having meetings with a partner without telling you. They add a roadmap item based on those discussion and when you ask about it, they inform you of the partnership and the meetings that have been going on.
    2. You didn't realize your product had a dropbox folder with a lot of great content that could have helped you. Several months after you start you ask for content and then they realize that they never shared that content with you. 
    3. Your product is getting a company wide demo run by your manager. You hear about a demo going on, but have no idea about with whom or why. You email your manager and ask to be invited to the demo. Your manager informs you it is company wide and that they "forgot" to tell you.
While all of these types of managers have driven me nuts in the past, it is more likely that no one manager has all of these traits. What are your thoughts? Anything you want to add?