To make sure your message gets across in the way you intend, pay attention to a few key nonverbal skills.
Considering most people want to do good work and meet expectations, delivering constructive feedback sure can feel like picking your way through a minefield of misunderstanding, hurt feelings, defensiveness, and conflict.
And with anxiety and depression rates still exceeding pre-covid numbers, I’ve heard from several coaching clients and workshop participants that their employees are more easily discouraged and offended … and more willing to walk off the job if they hear something they don’t like. As a leader, this can put you in a bind.
There’s an art to telling people they aren’t measuring up in a way they can actually hear and use! Thankfully, a quick google search will bring up zillions of useful articles on the topic, most of which include suggestions like this (I mean, I’m assuming — I haven’t read them all):
Be specific and clear. Do not embellish, sugarcoat, or avoid the truth. Be straightforward. As Diane Musho Hamilton writes, “Speak with kind confidence.”
Focus on behavior. State facts and share observations without derailing into shame, blame, or name-calling. Keep character, motives, and identity out of the conversation.
Coach before you evaluate. Avoid comparisons and assessments if you haven’t given ample training or conveyed expectations.
Acknowledge reactions. Notice, address, and give space for emotional reactions, including your own.
Listen. Ask questions and pay attention to the answers to discover whether your intended message got across and what you may have missed.
Plan for improvement. Work together with the other person to brainstorm ways to effect change, set goals, and follow up.
Each of these could be an article on its own (and I’ve written a few of those!), but today I’d like to focus on the physical, concrete, nonverbal things you can do to keep your constructive comments from devolving into de-structive feedback…