Better Feedback

Common complaints from managers I work with are, “my employees are not engaged, they are not adopting the new system, they are not stretching out of their comfort zone.” As we talk a little longer it becomes apparent that people have not developed the tools (no, that’s not true, there are LOTS of tools***). People are uncomfortable engaging their own teams.

I get it I am a product of college in the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan was President, greed was good, and emotions had no place in business. It was all about logic and reason.

Well, the science is in and it clearly demonstrates that when we connect with our team, our employees, our customers and we connect emotionally, all sorts of beneficial things happen. Beginning with employee engagement. The number one reason that people are unengaged is the relationship they have with their manager. And how, pray tell, do you create relationships?

You Connect

And yet, leaders are afraid to connect because it might get emotional. And that could get messy. It could lead to tears, a tantrum, or conflict. Tet when we can create an environment where people can say what needs to be said in a safe place, where feedback can be heard and integrated as opposed to being defensive and resistant, we can move the business forward.

One of the best leaders I worked with was very good at connecting with his team emotionally. He knew each individual, their spouses and children, and their aspirations. When he had to have a “constructive conversation” – we now call it coaching – he would connect emotionally. He would connect to the things that were working AND he would address the performance improvement needed.

One result was that our division outperformed every other division in sales, margins and productivity.

Contrast that to his colleague who only knew how to “measure” and “drive” for results. The company eventually had to merge his division into another to consolidate operations in an attempt to reduce overhead, as clients continued to leave as the good employees left.

We can have the difficult conversations. It takes a bit of courage and willingness to risk. But I have observed that every time people come to this conversation to grow as opposed to blame, performance improves.

So here are some thoughts that can help you have this conversation and then some of the tools you can access to help your growth. feedback-2

  1. Get really clear about what you want to address. For example, it is not really lack of revenue -it might be lack of new accounts, or new client conversations, or new account meetings.
  2. Create the environment – Let your team member know you want to have a performance conversation and it is to support, not to attack.
  3. Bring examples. I like an approach that provides the specific behavior, and the impact it has. You then invite the team member to share their perception.
  4. Recognize that there are feelings and emotions involved and take steps to minimize the emotional hijack that could occur.
    1. Create a private environment
    2. Take a couple of deep breaths
    3. Get present to the moment and your intentions
    4. Allow the other to express
    5. If it gets emotionally charged, acknowledge that and take a break
  5. Once you’ve had the feedback session and you have walked through the goals, the challenges, and have found a way forward that you both agree on, you can gain commitment.

Difficult conversations are difficult for a reason, they are important. We can be NICE. My friend Coach Dave would remind you that sometimes N.I.C.E. means Nothing Inside Cares Enough.

If you would like to learn more about how to leverage communication for your success, let’s connect.



  1. Crucial Conversations
  2. Fierce Conversations
  3. Conversational Intelligence


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