Feedback: A teaspoonful of criticism, and a bucketful of praise!

BullyingA very wise lady, the late Blanche Eldon, told me something when I was about 15 years old, that has stayed with me ever since. I was in my first management role – a Patrol Leader in a local Boy Scout Troop.

We were mid-way through our ten-day summer camp and one of my patrol, Dan, had consistently not been carrying out his jobs around camp, and his behaviour was making my patrol, and me, angry. I was giving him a telling off – shouting, giving him punishments and generally being a bully, because he wasn’t doing what I needed him to do. In the midst of my shouting, Blanche politely called me over and said:

‘I’ve always found that a teaspoonful of criticism and a bucketful of praise is the best way to develop people rather than getting angry and shouting. Why don’t you try it?’

I did, with a bit of coaching…and it worked! Having different kinds of conversations turned around not only Dan’s behaviour, but our relationship improved too.

Feedback to your team and peers is hugely important if you want to develop powerful relationships, but in order to get the best out of those conversations, screaming, shouting, finger-pointing and aggression is NOT the best way to get the most out of people. Worse still, this type of behaviour can not only lead to poor relationships, it can have a serious long-term impact on the person you are targeting. Believe me, I’ve seen it a few times in my career. Framing feedback in a constructive, supportive way, pointing out  positive contribution and behaviours, as well as focussed time discussing where behaviours could be better, will do wonders when giving feedback to improve your relationships.

Below are a few tips on how you might handle giving negative feedback:

1. Don’t always wait for formal occasions to give feedback

Feedback works best in the moment. Performance reviews and monthly or quarterly 121’s are often too few and far between. Far better to offer feedback in a casual, non-confrontational conversation as soon after the ‘event’ as possible.

2. Ask permission to give a person feedback , especially if it’s to a peer

3. Always give negative feedback in private

4. Describe the behaviour and the impact that it had / is having, and be specific.

Feedback is much easier to accept when the person receiving it does not feel their personal worth is being criticised. It is much better to state feedback positively, rather than negatively, when possible. People generally respond better to specific, positive direction. Avoid saying things like, “You need to be more talkative in meetings.” It’s too ambiguous and can be interpreted in a lot of personal ways. Say something specific and positive pointed at the task you want accomplished, such as, “You have some good ideas. I want to hear at least one opinion from you in every meeting we’re in together going forward.”

 5. Discuss what is going to happen next.

How is the person going to change their behaviour? Ask if he or she understands everything you expect and that you’re there to help him or her succeed. As the saying goes: “People have a habit of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.”

Giving feedback is first of all an attitude and can only be made a habit by constant practice. “The worst harm you can do,” Jack Welch, says in his book, Winning, “is not to be candid with someone else.”

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About Mark Conway
A highly motivated executive with 18 years business experience in fixed / mobile telecommunications and IT Services. A strong record of delivering sales and large-scale change programmes, improving customer experience and with a proven ability to build, lead & manage high quality teams; offering strong relationship building, commercial & decision making skills, gained working in technology and telecommunications for KC, KCOM & O2 in the UK, and with BT Wholesale, IBM, Accenture, Microsoft, Deloitte, SAP and Cisco in partnership. My Blogs: Think Oak! - http://www.oakconsult.co.uk/blog Life Spirit - http://www.lifespirit.biz

3 Responses to Feedback: A teaspoonful of criticism, and a bucketful of praise!

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