“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
Feedback is a really important factor no matter the environment that we are in; it is the coaching along the way that helps us improve from bad to good and good to fantastic.
When I was around 10 years old, I quit playing the piano. The feedback that I got from my highly trained, but young and inexperienced teach was so overwhelming. There was always so much correction, pressure and expectations – it was difficult to process. Six years later, I returned to playing the piano with a more experienced coach. I learned to appreciate the process of learning how to string the notes together – first by measure, then increasing the tempo and last, perfecting the phrasing. Granular feedback had turned me into a confident pianist.
In order to coach others into their full potential just as I was, I believe that there are three simple rules to follow.
Be Direct: People sugarcoat areas that need improvement, but really you need to tell them how it is – that is what is truly valuable. Of course, show sensitivity while delivering the facts. Something that might help you is by asking permission such as, “May I give you an observation that may bother you?” They will automatically convert into learning mode and be ready to hear you. Lastly, as always, present it in a positive framework that is aimed at them improving themselves rather than comparing to a quantity or measurement.
Be Specific: The least effective feedback is when it is generalized. Use a recent instance and talk about the effect that it had on the team or their performance. Provide this kind of feedback privately because a confidential conversation makes hearing these tough truths easier. They will focus on your words instead of worrying about what everyone else is thinking.
Be Clear: If the feedback is serious enough that they risk losing their position, then say it in a non-threatening way. Give them time frames for improvement, measurable ways to improve and schedule a follow up. So basically, don’t skip to the punch line.
The wonderful thing about being in management is watching others grow. You are not the solo performer; you need the rest of your team there. Yes, giving feedback can be difficult, but it is as vital as deciding whom to hire, to promote and even to let go. Be the leader that keeps confidences, removes obstacles and notices what can be improved. That is the kind of piano coach I had and the one that I aim to be.