I went to my first leadership workshop when I was 22. The instructor talked about Constructive Criticism, something I had never heard of before.
“Constructive Criticism is when instead of telling an employee what they did wrong, you tell them what they can do better next time,” said the workshop leader.
A workshop participant asked a question. “What if the employee doesn’t listen to my feedback?” he asked.
“Then you may have to give the same feedback again, in a different way,” said the instructor. “You can try different ways to give the same feedback until the employee listens to it and acts on it.” My 22-year-old brain recoiled. I wondered
“Why is leadership training always about telling employees something, instead of asking them what they think?”
If someone doesn’t listen to you, why would you try to tell them the same thing again in a different way? Wouldn’t you ask them instead “Does my feedback sound right to you? Maybe I am wrong. What’s your opinion?”
Asking employees for their opinions about your feedback was not part of the traditional management playbook back then.
As managers we too often feel the microphone of power naturally belongs to us. Why would we think that employees should automatically listen to our feedback as though we are experts on the best way to perform their jobs?
Over the years the question “What kind of feedback is best received, and most easily acted upon by employees?” has continued rattling around in my mind, and now that the new-millennium workplace has awoken us to the importance of fear and trust at the workplace, the answer is clear.
Feedback that is well-received and easily acted upon is feedback that comes from a person you trust. It’s that simple.
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