My mother did a lot of things differently from other parents. Other parents served leftovers, but my mother called it “eating Creole” and made it an event. Other parents, and most of my teachers, talked about “misbehavior.” Mom thought there was no such thing. “There is only behavior,” she would say, “Let’s see if we can figure out the reason for it.”
Don’t give feedback, ask questions
“Why do you think that happened?”
I probably heard that question a thousand times when I was growing up. It’s the key to giving feedback without giving feedback at all.
When you say, “Let me give you some feedback” to a team member you can almost see them putting their defense shields up. Nobody likes to be told they did something wrong, even if they did. That’s human nature. Try this instead.
Ask for permission to ask the team member some questions. That gives them more control over the process. People like to be in control.
Then, ask questions that aren’t disguised judgement. When my mother asked me “Why do you think that happened?” it freed me to think about the situation and not worry about defending myself or my behavior.
Give praise, but deliver consequences
Praise is one of your power tools. People love to receive praise and recognition. And you don’t have to wait for perfect performance before you deliver praise. You can praise progress or effort, and you should. Give as much legitimate praise as you can.
But you know it can’t always be praise or questions that help people. Sometimes you must deliver discipline. The operational key word is “deliver.”
I can remember being restricted to my room because I had done something that was against the code of conduct at our house. I remember once telling mom that I didn’t like it when she punished me.
“I’m not punishing you,” my mother told me. “Being restricted to your room is the consequence of what you did. I’m just delivering it.”
For mom, a “consequence” was the natural result of behavior. In other words, being restricted to my room was something I did to myself.
It should be the same way at work. Consequences should be the natural result of behavior or performance, something team members do to themselves. You just deliver the consequences.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Instead of giving feedback, use non-threatening questions to help team members think constructively about what happened and how they can do things better next time. Praise a lot. Don’t “punish” or “discipline,” instead deliver the consequences of performance or behavior.