Give em dignity or they’ll never hear you

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One of my favorite clients — a genuinely smart guy — once chewed out his team member in front of me and my team, aka outside consultants. I felt so bad for the person who was doing her best given the situation and I thought the client and sr. director was behaving less-than-stellar. I took him aside and give him some ideas on how to do it better next time, but who knows if it stuck.
The memory comes back because a mentor, author, and incredible organizational coach, Arynne Simon, just sent me an email on ways to give feedback to others (employees, significant others, children — whatever…) and I think it’s worthy of sharing.
Feedback Tips by Arynne Simon, PhD …. top ten traits of effective feedback are:
1. Timely
It is timely – don’t separate the feedback too far from the event, otherwise it loses its impact.
2. Consistent
It is consistent – give feedback, both positive and negative, at regular rather than sporadic intervals.
3. Specific
It is specific – don’t point out all the person’s deficiencies when you are providing feedback about a specific situation.
4. Descriptive and fact based
It is descriptive, not evaluative. Describe your observations and LEAVE OUT your interpretations and judgments. Say: “I notice that you have missed the
last three meetings- what’s that all about?” and avoid saying “You don’t seem to care about the project because……..”.
5. Enable esteem
It avoids emotional “digs” – when you are angry, it is tempting to use biting
sarcasm or nasty comments. Don’t!
6. Directed to change behavior, not personality
It is directed at the behaviors or results, not at the person.
7. Empathy
It shows empathy – try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their feelings (ask powerful questions such as “I imagine hearing this might be tough for you. How’s this making you feel?”)
8. Name the topic
It is candid without being brutal. You can be very candid if you stick to sharing observations, directing your feedback at the behaviors you have noted, and demonstrating empathy.
9. Situation-based
It is appropriate – make the feedback appropriate to the situation and avoid exaggeration or generalization.
10. Be clear on what you want
It is meaningful – make your feedback useful to the person receiving it. Clarify your expectations and make your requests very clear, to avoid any misunderstandings. Don’t make the other person read your mind!
Thanks, Arynne. I like your list. I would sum it up by saying:
First, we all need to remember people’s story and who they are before we open our mouth to talk with them. Then, we need to remember that we are human beings that deserve to be respected and treated with basic dignity. That means everyone regardless of gender, color, rank, whatever. And that when we give feedback, we need to do it for an eye towards helping the other person to move forward.
Let these principals guide our approach, and let our intent of goodness guide what comes out of our mouths.

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