A few weeks ago I was horrified to watch the two judges on New Zealand’s X factor supposedly giving feedback to one of the contestants during a live show.
Did you see it? If not, you can watch it here.
It was a beautiful (and horrific) example of how not to deliver feedback! It was nothing more than a personal attack that could only make the person on the receiving end feel belittled, embarrassed, unworthy and incompetent. Was he incompetent? Was he underperforming? I guess that is a personal opinion in terms of whether he gave a good performance or whether he is a talented singer – but calling him “cheesy”, “a fraud” or “disgusting” is way out of line. Here in lies the difference of effective vs. ineffective performance feedback. The focus of the feedback was based on personal opinion that involved labeling and personal traits. There was nothing constructive in the content of the feedback whatsoever.
How receptive do you think the contestant Joe was to this? Was he open to their feedback? I doubt it. It is more likely that he felt overwhelmed, attacked and that he was in an unfair situation – publicly too I might add!
Assessing performance and giving feedback is part of everyday in a leadership role – but if leaders behaved like these two judges, we wouldn’t be left with too many employees or a business for that matter!
So when you observe behaviour that isn’t up to standard or is inconsistent with expectations, don’t shy away from it or hope that it will go away (hope is not a strategy!) and certainly don’t rant and rave and tell someone how ‘bad’ they are. Both are completely ineffective strategies.
To ensure your feedback is heard, remember this – most people can handle feedback if it is immediate, specific and truthful. Here is a quick checklist you can follow:
- Immediately when observed – give feedback as things happen, don’t hold on to things and talk about it days or weeks later. Performance issues are not to be stored up and delivered when things are at breaking point or just when you have the courage to talk about it.
- Be specific (behaviours) – being clear on what behaviour was or wasn’t demonstrated in the example moves the conversation away from labels, opinions and personal traits and becomes about the behaviour only – not the person.
- How you feel about what’s happened – what impact has the situation had and how do you feel about it? Are you frustrated, angry, concerned? This open communication is important to ensure there is a two-way dialogue about the situation and behaviour.
- Remind them you still value them as a person – as per a leadership classic book “The One Minute Manager”, behaviour and worth are not the same thing.
- Let it go – if you have been able to discuss the situation and behaviour clearly and you are back on the same page with expectations, then “shake it off”. Thrashing it out, or reminding them again in a few days time doesn’t achieve anything. Be the bigger person and leave the meeting with good intent and belief that your employee wants to perform well in their job.
Giving feedback doesn’t have to be like these so-called ‘expert’ judges on the X-Factor delivered their message. Feedback keeps people motivated and engaged, as it’s a two-fold opportunity, to give praise and to support development – don’t abuse your power, use it wisely.
nicoleunderwood pty ltd is a national executive search and consulting practice known for its innovative approach to identifying, engaging and developing the right people for its client base. A successful formula gives their clients a significant competitive advantage – access to the greatest available talent and then a platform to convert that talent into high performing employees in a short period of time. Contact us here.