Feedback conversations for managers – 6 important situations
As a supervisor, one of my core tasks is to conduct feedback conversations with employees. How do I approach this leadership technique correctly? What traps might I fall into in the process? The CoA Academy presents the 6 most important situations of feedback. In our seminars as well as in the podcast, we go into more detail about the “6 situations of feedback.” Here’s our “short” version.
1. Positive affirmations in feedback discussions
In employee reviews, we give positive affirmations far too infrequently. When employees show a desired behavior, I as a boss am allowed to say thank you! Because good work from my team is not self-evident. Even though I already pay my employees, the salary is just the basis. Only those who also receive recognition or are allowed to develop further will stay with the company for a long time, and with pleasure.
For ideal personnel development, we recommend positive reinforcement in 85% of feedback. It’s important to pay attention to what’s going well and acknowledge it. I don’t do this in the form of lauding and applauding, as this is an expression of hierarchy. It shows that I’m judging someone. Instead, I choose gratitude: I say thank you honestly. At eye level. In this way, I ensure mutual appreciation throughout the company. For example, I thank the team for maintaining their willingness to perform despite working from home.
2. Giving feed-forward for hard skills
At CoA Academy, we use a leadership tool called “feed-forward.” That’s because we don’t want to find fault with anything from the past. Rather, we want to look forward. Forward! We see before our eyes how performance can be even better. Now, as a team leader, I often find myself in the situation where an employee doesn’t yet have the necessary hard skills for a task. However, he has already been hired and I want to keep him because he fits well into the corporate culture.
I then have him assess where he sees his skills on a scale of 1 to 10. I consider whether he can think of his own ways to get higher. After his suggestions, I ask for permission to suggest something myself. Only then do I introduce my ideas. In this way, the employee doesn’t feel put out, rather encouraged and included. Following the discussion, we implement measurements and later check whether the target agreement has been reached. If there’s no willingness to learn, I can assign the person new tasks, or I may consider dismissal.
3. Feedback discussions on soft skills
Soft skills are in demand when an employee moves from being a specialist to a manager. She suddenly gets to lead a team of diverse people. Social skills are required for this! In this situation, I’m the one who is still above the new manager. Or I’m on the same level and lead her into this new world.
Their leadership skills can improve even more. Again, I can ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you rate your people skills?” As we discuss this, I adjust my communication. I talk and act in a way that makes my counterpart feel comfortable. Now the objection may come, “If I act differently socially, then I’m no longer myself!” In this case, I’d argue: We’re all allowed to change behavior if it brings us to our goal. After all, as a supervisor, I want to implement my plan or vision. So I may continue to learn and pivot to do things differently. In this way, my leadership skills grow. At the same time, I remain the same person.
4. Performance reviews and limiting beliefs
We all have beliefs about the world. We think certain things should be such and such, that they’re impossible, that x is good and y is bad. Someone else may have completely different beliefs, sometimes within the company. That’s when the problem arises. As a manager, I don’t get anywhere if a team member is held back from work by his or her beliefs.
My responsibility as a manager ends with the beliefs. Changing moral convictions isn’t a task of employee management. That’s the job of coaching, or a therapist. The team member decides for himself whether he wants to take this step or not. We can only provide the impetus.
5. An important management tool: Fire Fast
Layoffs also need to be learned. We find that the “fire fast” approach is appropriate as soon as values don’t align. That is, when someone has such deeply anchored beliefs that they’ve become a value, and this value doesn’t harmonize with the corporate culture. At that moment, I no longer give feedback. As a team leader, I can’t demand that someone change their fundamental beliefs for the company.
I may decide for this person to leave. I communicate this in an appreciative, timely, brief, and clear manner. It’s not about trying to influence the person. The best thing to do is to leave the person immediately afterwards in order to avoid wasted energy for both parties.
Corporate culture suffers when someone doesn’t believe in the same vision.
6. Work behavior and my own triggers
Sometimes I react negatively to someone else’s behavior and can’t explain it. There’s then nothing for me to give feed-forward on. It doesn’t require skill improvement and there are no beliefs involved. I simply react to something with a certain (negative) pattern. This usually happens because of past experiences.
In that moment, I may remember that the other person isn’t intentionally hurting me. Instead, I’ve fallen into my own trap. Even if it were intentional, I have the power to rise above it and not be triggered. I do that by stepping out of the downward spiral.
Then, I try something new, which can make my counterpart behave more desirably. He or she may adapt to me. For example: If I respond to a rude comment in a friendly manner, the other person will probably respond more nicely.