To help direct reports improve and grow as leaders, it’s essential to provide quality feedback to best illustrate what they do well and what they do not do so well. When this feedback is behaviorally specific and delivered effectively, direct reports are more likely to receive the message well and take meaningful action.
Most importantly, you should begin with humility. Your recipient will be much more receptive when you connect as human beings first as it demonstrates that you acknowledge and accept that we are all perfectly imperfect.
The Center for Creative Leadership recommends the “situation-behavior-impact” methodology to help leaders be more precise and show up less arrogant when giving feedback. This method focuses on: 1) the situation, 2) the behavior (i.e., what the person did, either good or bad), and 3) the impact. Sticking to this methodology helps you avoid making judgments regarding the person’s intelligence, common sense or other personal attributes. And keeping it based on the events you observe, means you are less likely to sound judgmental or arrogant.
The CCL further recommends follow up inquiry to understand the person’s intent. Rather than assume, ask the person if what you witnessed was their intention. In this way they can potentially see how there may be a disconnect between what they intended and what transpired. This is a way to open the conversation and that’s where learning and potentially corrective action can occur.
This is more of a coaching conversation, and it can help clarify the delta between intent and impact, which can result in a change in behavior. This type of conversation can also serve to increase trust and understanding. Ultimately, by inquiring in this way to understand the intention or motivation behind the action, you will both find it less disciplinary and more instructive.
Providing feedback is often a delicate area, but it need not be. It’s simply a matter of explaining what you observe and the resulting impact. When this impact is detrimental, it’s important to determine if that was the intention. And when the intent is different than the result, you can be helpful in corrective action and ensure there is learning so it doesn’t happen again.