Communication is an art-form. Sometimes it’s a masterpiece by Picasso and sometimes it’s a finger-painting. The difference depends on the tools at the artist’s disposal. And as with any artistic endeavor, crafting conversations that lead to great work relies upon a few tried and true techniques.
In this array of articles on employee feedback, we have compiled the tools necessary to engage artfully with your employees, while treating them with dignity, respecting their opinions, and honoring their humanness. Asking the right questions validates their experience and provides managers with the opportunity to respond with support, coaching, and recognition.
Employees crave feedback. So much so that they probably already read these 4 great articles. How about you?
by Sara Stibitz
It’s time to stand down and listen up. Many leaders are accused of having strong opinions and a take-no-prisoners attitude. While being a strong leader is important, actively paying attention is just as critical. So how do you become a better listener?
1) Rid yourself of distractions.
2) Look for non-verbal cues.
3) Don’t make assumptions.
4) Ask clarifying questions to verify what you heard.
Stibitz reminds leaders to take inventory of their positive and negative habits, so that you can become a better listener and employees know that they have been heard.
When providing feedback, the biggest question you need to ask yourself is whether your feedback is hindering or helping innovation within your organization? Anese Cavanaugh, creator of the IEP Method, examines 7 different ways that your feedback is working against your organization and what you can do to fix it. Here are two examples:
You haven’t created “sacred” space. You’re dashing to your next meeting and realize you forgot to provide feedback for your head of marketing. You drop by their desk for a rushed, five-minute check-in. This type of feedback doesn’t foster a sacred space, but one that lacks privacy and disconnects you from your employee.
You leave them hanging, giving them nowhere to go with it. Feedback that helps innovation within your organization is one that is open and provides employees with room to ask questions and to understand what to do better.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, try a little harder. The era of giving tough-love feedback and advice is aging and retiring. Just as this next generation after the Boomers doesn’t tolerate corporal punishment in schools, “people expect to be treated differently,” in the office as well. Instead of the emotionally loud (yet sometimes motivating) feedback of the olden days, managers are ramping up the positivity to shine a light on what is going well. Millennials typically respond to this encouraging feedback with enthusiasm, and better performance.
Managers do more than just manage. They guide and coach employees, aiming at improving performance through training the varied skill-sets of individuals on the team. Wilkins asks you to consider when coaching is the proper tool, and how to know when an employee is (or is not) coachable.
Take a look at whether the person is willing and has the capacity for improvement, and communicate accordingly. Remember that employees are complex individuals and have a lot going on in their worlds. You may not be able to coach them effectively if they have something deeper in the way of doing their best work, but the best place to start is to begin the conversation and ask the appropriate questions. In this way, you are not only helping your employee to be more effective, but you are also building the trust that is the cornerstone of any relationship.
By utilizing a wide array of tools and knowing your communication strengths and weaknesses, you can build more of your own capacity to show up as an effective leader. The details of your daily interactions build upon one another, from the questions you choose to ask to the way you choose to listen. Communication is indeed a collaborative art form, one where both listening and responding to employees can truly create something beautiful.
What triumphs have you experienced in communicating with your employees lately? Tell us in the comments below!
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