I have long approached leadership as an art form, a process of expression in which we allow something incredibly genuine to emerge from within, a truly intimate perspective shared with those looking to us for guidance.
While people remain the passion behind the purpose, feedback transforms their potential into performance.
Still, leaders can struggle with the how, what, and when of providing accurate and impactful feedback. Most issues relate to not fully appreciating the reasons why you’re engaging in this critical dialogue to begin with.
We’ll review four ways (Corrective, Supportive, Explorative, Elective) feedback can inspire your team to become their very best.
Rules of the House
Feedback is best exchanged with complete and unabridged transparency, a confirmation of information offered and received, with the intent of influencing those behaviors most likely to improve performance and promote growth.
Along with that snippet from the Tall Tim Glossary, there are some holistic, high-level House Rules to keep in mind:
People Love Feedback
Think about it . . . feedback shows you care and have faith in a person’s ability to perform. You are invested in them as an individual and appreciate their contributions to the overall success of the team.
It builds trust.
Consistency = Effective
While the content will vary, the delivery of feedback should remain consistent to be effective. It must originate from the heart, with complete transparency and honesty, to realize the intended influence on behavior and performance. Sometimes tender, sometimes tough, always with love.
The process of feedback should also remain fluid and authentic, allowing you to respond to the uniqueness of each moment and opportunity.
Resilient leaders promote clarity through a calm, collected presence.
While feedback is best delivered when fresh, the moment may feel saturated with intense and unguided energies.
Waiting for an environment that can support the message you want to deliver, and how you want it to be received, is acceptable.
Just don’t wait too long, there may never be “the” perfect time and place.
One of the two more traditional opportunities to provide feedback: We’ve drifted off course and adjustments must be made.
Remain aligned with the purpose and the overall value of your message: You want the person’s performance or behavior to improve. You want to see them succeed, both for themselves and the benefit of the team.
Also recognize that you’re dealing with the duality of conflict. There is danger in falling short of expectations, along with the opportunity to learn and grow through corrective actions.
So, approach your feedback with that mindset.
This is when timing becomes critical. My most memorable example of receiving corrective feedback occurred almost six months into my assignment as Commanding Officer of the USCGC Point Whitehorn in St. Thomas, USVI.
Captain William assumed command of our Section and had just completed a tour of our facility along with Admiral Howard. This included the two senior officers observing the crew performing standard operational drills.
The next day I received an invitation to meet with the captain in San Juan, Puerto Rico, later that week.
Captain William welcomed me into his office and motioned for us to sit in two comfortably stuffed chairs. He then began listing discrepancies that were obvious in his eyes, not so obvious for someone just starting out. Most related to the ship itself, others referenced our performance as a crew. I thanked him for his candor and agreed to a 30-day plan of action.
Technically it was considered feedback, but for me it was music to my ears.
Potential is what led to my selection for command. Given the autonomy of my assignment, and absence of experience as a Commanding Officer, I needed feedback to guide my performance. Without it, I began to think and operate independently.
When the Captain returned after 30 days, it was a completely different experience. Our drills were crisp and executed with precision. An air of confidence was present, pride replaced the complacency that had crept into routines.
Sometimes all it takes is a second set of experienced eyes.
Supportive Feedback is one of the best tools for transforming potential into strengths. “Catching someone doing something right” is a popular phrase in this area.
Standards and guidelines can limit a person’s view of their own performance potential, creating a false ceiling from a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Providing clarity can break through those barriers and pave the way toward continuous improvement.
Recognize you’re still dealing with the duality of conflict, this time danger is represented by unfulfilled promise and ability.
Be specific about what you have observed or detected as a developing strength. Offer your assistance and guidance or extend the invitation to another well-qualified coach or mentor.
But don’t let your observation pass without collaborating on action steps moving forward. If the individual didn’t recognize a strength to begin with, subtle encouragement may not be enough to realize improvement.
Seize an opportunity to provide someone additional perspective beyond the normal scope of evaluation regarding their personal goals and aspirations.
This could result from performance observations over time, adjustments in operating or performance parameters, or strategic changes within your industry.
The subtlety is that the opportunity may be initiated by the individual or their leader.
For example: A General Manager had a rock-solid reputation for results. Eternally optimistic and positive, her ability to inject levity and humor into stressful situations resonated well with her front-line staff and property leaders.
When soliciting feedback from her leader, she was informed that her peers and other regional leaders “Don’t take you seriously. Everything seems like a joke to you.”
Blindsided but grateful for the awareness, she struggled at first to interpret the influence on her growth and development. Eventually, she realized her positivity wasn’t the issue, her delivery was.
This added a new dimension to her performance, one that supported her personal goals by focusing on strategic communication. She developed a style that promoted both clarity of conviction and optimism, working in her favor across all levels of the organization.
All she had to do was ask.
This type of feedback addresses personal values, a choice reflecting what matters most to an individual.
Similar in nature to Explorative, the content is provided to support a separate over-arching desire or aspiration.
A great example involved my opportunity to pursue a newly created position within the Learning Organization. It came while I was facing a crossroads in my career, one that included the possibility of leaving the enterprise for an extended period.
While discussing options, my director compared aspects from within the new job description with my performance in each of the required competency areas. In the end, he surmised:
“Tim, you’ll be perfect for this job. But you have to remain connected to the enterprise to be considered an internal candidate. Do that, and you’re a shoo-in.”
Within that conversation I received feedback that instilled confidence; confidence which inspired me to make a great choice; a choice that completely changed the trajectory of my career.
No Negative or Positive, Only Feedback
People are fond of saying, “Did you give them positive feedback?”
There is no positive or negative. The holistic intent of feedback is to promote growth.
If offered from an authentic perspective with complete transparency, your words will inspire improvement . . . whether corrective, supportive, explorative, or elective.
Your role challenges you in leading to inspire and aspiring to achieve. Feedback is one of the greatest tools to help turn your team’s potential into unlimited levels of performance and achievement.
It is the means by which a leader conveys their passion.
Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!