Don’t Get Emotional With Performance Feedback

Managers have good intentions when it comes to delivering feedback to employees, but the reality is that most of them aren’t very good at it. In a new article for The Ken Blanchard Companies Ignite newsletter, senior consulting partner Phil Reynolds identifies a lack of clear expectations upfront—and a subsequent emotional response down the road—as the way most managers get off-track.

As Reynolds explains, “Leaders often think that people should know something through their own devices and so they don’t give them feedback, or clear expectations, or redirection toward the target that they (the leader) are looking for.” These managers are often surprised later when they find out that their people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

By avoiding the situation and not addressing it early, managers will tend to create a lot of emotion around the issue when they finally deal with it. At that point, the tendency is to come down hard, and say things like, “You’re doing this wrong; fix it!”  Once that happens, resistance goes up.

With newer managers, Reynolds will often see behavior swing to the other side of the scale. Now the emotion centers on the relationship and how the feedback may damage it. As he explains, “Younger managers want to project a positive image and have people like them. When feedback gets tied up with emotion, these younger leaders find it difficult to give corrective feedback or to hold people accountable.”

Advice for Senior Leaders

For senior leaders recognizing these symptoms in their organizations, Reynolds recommends a 3-step approach:

  • Take a look at your organization’s culture. Culture drives organizational behavior more than anything else. Make feedback a priority, recognize people who are good at feedback, and let people know that feedback is something that is valued and encouraged.
  • Provide training. People can only do what they know how to do. It’s unreasonable to ask people to do something at which they don’t have the training or skill set to be effective.
  • Model what effective feedback looks like. Demonstrate what positive and redirecting feedback looks like for the people reporting to you.

Read more about Reynolds’ advice for improving feedback in your organization here.  Also be sure to see the information about a free webinar Reynolds will be conducting on October 19, How to Deliver Feedback in a Way That Gets Results.  It’s a complimentary event, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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