In Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership, he cites a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology that reports:
“When 108 managers and white-collar workers reported on the causes of conflict in their jobs, the number one reason was inept criticism by a boss.”
Why is it so hard for some people to give helpful feedback?
There are many reasons, but two big ones are the attitudes that managers have towards the process. First it may be because you are too critical of the person without offering concrete things to work on. The second (and opposite side of the same coin) they feel the need to protect their team so they give weak criticism or excuses for poor performance.
Want an ineffectual and passive team? Just apply these methods to your feedback.
How to give better feedback?
1. Acknowledge where growth is happening (evening if it is small). Think of it as sunlight and water to a seed. Nothing grows in darkness.
2. Be honest about shortcomings without making it a moral problem. (Criticism of their work, not their value.) While it may sting, clear and concrete criticism can help us grow. As long as we don’t pathologize them (“You aren’t a good public speaker”) and focus more on the facts (“When you speak, it is hard to understand you. Let’s work on how to be clearer”), you will succeed in helping them grow.
3. Own your part in their development. Seriously. Nothing will help build trust with a team as much as admitting where you might not have been clear or how your behavior may have been confusing to them. No need to fall on a sword, but you are the leader. If you can see how you could have been clearer in your expectations, then admit it. Just hold them to it the next time.