Jeannie exhaled forcefully in frustration as she ended the phone call. Brenda was going to be late to work again, and she hadn’t finished the report that was due last Friday. It was another thing on a long list of concerns about Brenda.
Jeannie was Brenda’s boss and she felt powerless. She had told Brenda time and time again that she had to be more accountable, get her work done on time, and be at her desk when the office opened to help with customers. But this feedback only seemed to make things worse. So, Jeannie found herself finishing late reports and manning the front desk until Brenda arrived, wondering how – and if - she could change things.
We often think that if we tell people exactly what to change, when to change, and how to change, they will just do it. We pat ourselves on the back for giving good feedback and expect to see different behavior next time. But, what brain research shows is that this kind of approach is actually perceived as a threat by the brain. To the brain, the “tell” approach takes away our control, elevates the importance of the other person over us, creates a sense of being unsafe, and feels unfair.
Feedback is critical for learning and development. So, if telling doesn’t work, what is a better approach to feedback?
1. Set up projects with feedback built in. At the outset of a project, define the parameters.
What is the clear purpose of the project?
How will success be measured?
What does failure look like?
What are the key deliverables and activities that should be addressed?
Build commitment and responsibility by discussing the importance of this project or task to the organization, the team, and the individual.
Ask what resources or help the employee will need to be successful. Put structures and processes in place that define performance. Then, each person will know what they are supposed to do, in what timeframe.
At the end of each week, check in with the team/employee to ensure measurements are being met.
2. Encourage self-reflection. This self-feedback engages the brain in a way that allows the employee to be more open to changes in their behavior. Use open-ended questions to help employees reflect on these key learning points.
Identify and reinforce the successes and positives.
Explore challenges or difficulties.
Determine what the employee can do differently to improve.
For any concerns or opportunities the employee has not identified, ask focused questions. “Tell me about what is happening with this report that keeps you from turning it in on time.”
Finally, ask what further feedback the person would like from you. The person may want to hear acknowledgement that they have mentioned everything. They may want your thoughts on something specific. Or, they may feel that everything has been covered.
It can seem so much easier and faster to just tell someone what to do. In fact, people often request, “Just tell me what to do.” But for true learning, buy-in, and change to take place, self-reflection is key. It can be difficult at first to ask the kind of questions that are open-ended and truly empowering if you are not used to it.
If you are unsure how to ask open-ended questions that empower your employees or if you need help bringing out the best in your employees, contact Joy today. She can provide you with the tools you need to empower YOU and your employees.