As employers we surround ourselves with staff that have different
skills to us, but our responsibility as leaders is to provide a workplace
environment where they can expand and grow those skills. This has the benefit
of our people enjoying their work and has a net benefit to the business as a
whole. It always translates into increased
profitability for the business and business owners.
But there are some very specific do’s and don’ts around
providing that environment for workplace improvement, and the feedback that you
give can either create great outcomes for the employee or just really stall
them in terms of their improvement.
So this is how you help your people thrive:
Firstly, it’s all in the language, so essentially critical
feedback is entirely unproductive. Critical feedback is perceived as a threat,
and it actually impairs learning rather than enables it. So when you try to help an employee in areas
to improve you need to think about different language. Instead of saying, “Can I give you some feedback”, which
straight away comes across as a negative, you are looking for a different way
to frame language like that, so you might say “look here’s the way I see that”,
so straight away you’re reframing the way you give the feedback so that it
doesn’t come across as a critical.
Instead of saying, ‘here’s what you did wrong’, you could
say, ‘these are the three things that really worked for me when I did that task
or when I tried to get that outcome’.
Instead of saying ‘’here’s what you should do’, you could say
‘here’s what I would do’, so the language is framing an environment for
openness in receiving information, rather than closing their mind.
Instead of saying ‘here’s what you need to improve’, say
‘here’s what worked best for me and here’s why’.
Or if their communication is not great you could say…’it was
at this point that you started to lose me’, ‘
So, you can see that the message you are communicating is the
same but the angle you are coming from is completely changed and opens the
employee up to learning.
We are often told that you need to get someone out of their
comfort zone to learn or to be challenged and grow, but the research actually
suggests the exact opposite, you have got to try and grow people from inside
their comfort zone. If you take people outside their comfort zone, their brain
stops paying attention to anything other than surviving the experience, for
example; of potentially being belittled or told or what they did wrong and
there’s no learning going on whatsoever.
So the best outcomes for employee growth and improvement and
learning are creating an environment where the employee feels comfortable, and
then adding to their knowledge base whilst in a place of comfort, then you will
find that they are very open. When they are open, their minds are creative,
insightful and productive and that’s where feedback is the most effective in
terms of moving employees forward in their knowledge and understanding of the learning
they need to achieve the best outcomes.
Adapted HBR March 2019
Buckingham & Goodall