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Scarlett Letter #108: Varying your feedback for each individual

Leading, managing, and teaching have many commonalities. In each role, for example you must adjust your techniques from person-to-person in order to get highest and best results from each individual.  Even when you are managing just two individuals, you strike a balance between consistency (not playing favorites, not sending confusing messages), and personalized communication.

Let’s focus on personalized communication. Say you are providing guidance to an entire group. You will likely start by giving the same level of direction to everyone, at one time. But later, you’ll have to elaborate or re-state direction for those individuals who might ‘learn’ differently. (We learn via a combination of kinesthetic, aural, written/reading, and visual methods).That’s why/how guidance might get adjusted.

But feedback is another story. As an effective leader, manager, or teacher, you find that individuals respond differently to feedback. You discover that some methods of feedback glean far better results from one person as opposed to another. Over time, you recognize what resonates best with each person. After all, it’s your feedback that will create a happier and more loyal employee, better results, higher productivity, and an overall stronger relationship.

Around this topic of feedback: earlier this semester at Columbia College, a student named James requested that I give him blunt and harsh (yes, he used this word harsh) feedback after each speech. He told me that he had a thick skin, and that he responds best to blatant criticisms from his boss in the workplace.

My quandary with James was that—while I am already fairly direct with the students—I also want to remain encouraging and diplomatic. My job is to get each student to embrace public speaking and hone it as a valued skill set. If the other students hear me rip James apart (per his request) when his work is sub-par, then they may become intimidated and even more fearful of public speaking.

In this case, my solution was to take James aside privately to do the ‘extra’ harsh crit (which was not often required because he’s much better at public speaking than he gives himself credit for). While time consuming, I felt this was necessary to avoid sending the wrong message to the remainder of the class. So I continued to offer each student the oral feedback after their presentations, but I kept this feedback constructive, direct, and encouraging. Only James heard feedback above and beyond, per his request.

This ‘private’ approach is not always possible in the workplace. In fact, it’s virtually impossible in some scenarios.  Yet somehow, managers and leaders need to adjust themselves somewhat—even in group meetings—to foster the best from each individual in their group.

How do you, as a leader or manager, adjust your own versions of feedback to work best with each individual? Please feel free to share privately or by post.

On a note related to feedback methods, Modern Steel Construction printed this article (authored by me): Get results through savvy motivation: Communication techniques for effective delegation. This article’s premise was to explain how varied forms of feedback—in this case, I borrowed for of Gary Chapman’s ‘Five Love Languages’: Expressions of emotion; Acts of kindness; Quality time; and Gifts—can be useful methods in the workplace to facilitate effective delegation.

Tags: AEC feedback, Anne Scarlett A/E Marketing, employee retention and marketing, linkedin, professional services marketing, professional services sales, Scarlett Consulting AEC business development

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May 03, 2010

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