Effective Feedback is About the Future

The title is lifted verbatim from the tenets of Manager Tools, and the brilliant minds of Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne. I encourage you to go to the source if you want to go deeper.

But the short version is this:

Any feedback on any behavior is most helpful to the individual and the organization if it is
1) Specific
2) Includes a call to future action

It can be as simple as “Good work, keep it up.” as opposed to simply “good work”.

It can be as thought out as “Nice thoroughness on that; if you always meet deadlines that well, we’ll really be successful.”

OR for corrective, instead of  “That wasn’t your best work…” try “That wasn’t your best work; next time, please stay more diligent about the details all the way to the end.”

or instead of

“You’re late again.”  try  “You’re late. Please be on time next time.”

(bonus points for adding an outcome: “…when you’re on time, we all start together, and the team stays cohesive.”

the cherry on top:

“Is there anything you need from me to make it happen?”

Colleague and fellow thinker/educator, Ted Reicher, says this: “Many uncomfortable situations can be avoided by prefacing feedback as a learning tool for future productivity/creation rather than just a review of past shortcomings.”

He’s right:

1) you’ve defused an uncomfortable situation

2) you’ve set higher expectations for the future

And it takes about the same amount of time. However, more mental effort.  It’s worth it, though.  Try it.

Just yesterday, an email from a workshop participant included this:

“Improved response was immediate even though some of my initial attempts were bit clumsy.”

Go ahead and be clumsy — people will forgive you as you grow in serving them better as a leader. Focus on the future.

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