Archives For Communication

So why give constructive feedback?  Constructive feedback is given when a behavior or action is ‘off track’ and you want to get it back ‘on track’.  Or you might need a higher level of performance than was achieved.  In one of my workshops I had a manager say that he wanted to learn how to ‘punish people properly’.  

Constructive Feedback

Ok… not what I was going for in a “Feed-FORWARD to Next Time” approach!

In constructive feedback we want them to hear you, buy in, and start a plan for how to change.  But how to do that? (To review the concept of Feedback As Feed-Forward and the purpose of giving feedback go here. And be sure not to miss any posts in the series by subscribing to my blog updates!)

The GROW Model

The best tool I’ve found is the GROW framework.  It creates a great flow of the conversation.  My thanks to John Whitmore and his book, Coaching for Performance.  (This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who wants to acquire a coaching style in managing the performance of others – Really!  B[……]

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Imagine a day where you received absolutely NO FEEDBACK.  Not really possible.  Your brain is constantly receiving feedback – feedback from your stomach (time for breakfast), feedback from your feet (this bathroom floor is cold!), feedback from your spouse (don’t forget to pick up Kristen after school today).


Your brain is a lover of feedback.  Without a feedback system you and your body couldn’t even complete the simplest task.  But even though we are wired to receive feedback, most leaders I meet struggle with the best way to give feedback.

My second blog series summarizes best practices in giving feedback.  As with the last series I’ll summarize the best tips and tools I’ve found on giving feedback.  Your job:  to practice and make these tools your own.

The Purpose of Giving Feedback

Answer the following question:  Why should you as a manager give feedback?

While you’re thinking about that… let me tell you a story of the worst feedback I ever got:

One company I wor[……]

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Airplanes are off-course 95% of the time on any given flight. Think about that – 95% of the time planes are heading in the wrong direction! In order to arrive safely at the intended destination there has to be constant course corrections.

One-on-Ones: Staying on Course for attaining clear objectives

As the plane veers off-course – up or down and left or right – it needs to constantly be evaluating its position relative to where it’s headed. In order for this to happen it must have a clearly defined flight plan, accurate computer programs, and a competent pilot.

In the same way, managers are tasked with keeping their employees on course.

In my previous posts on setting clear objectives here and here I discussed how important it is to anticipate the obstacles that might hinder successful goal attainment. Now I want to address the most important tool for keeping your people on course.

Staying on Course with One-on-Ones

The singular most important tool to keep your people on course is the one-on-one meeting. One-on-ones are essential t[……]

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If you want to be a smart manager, you need to use the SMA2RT tool. SMA2RT stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-Bound.SMART objectives and goals tag cloudIn my last post I covered the first four criteria. Here I’ll finish up with the last two, Realistic and Time-Bound.

R = REALISTIC: I find it very common in companies to establish ‘stretch goals’ for their employees.  How hard is too hard when putting some ‘stretch’ into an objective?  In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi describes a person’s optimal state of consciousness which he calls “flow”.

Cziksentmihalyi asks us to consider both the level of challenge of the work and the person’s skill level.  When people are “in the Zone” the activity is the right balance between challenge and skill.  If the assignment is too easy people become bored so they can lose motivation in their job. But, if people are given a task that is too difficult for their skill level, we throw them into anxi[……]

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The scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz  thought he didn’t have a brain. When he met the Wizard after helping Dorothy find her way on the Yellow Brick road, he found out he had one after all. Even still, it would have been a lot easier if he had used the SMA2RT Tool!

How to be a Smart Manager: Use the SMART Tool to Set Clear Objectives
If you want to be a smart manager you need the SMA2RT Tool!

After teaching new managers for over 15 years in several major companies, I’ve heard dozens of excuses why the objective-setting process doesn’t work. I’ve heard about the non-flexible IT systems HR keeps designing to store the objectives, or maybe it’s the cascade process that takes until the middle of a given fiscal year, or it’s might be that people see objective-setting as nothing more than paper work – not as a key capability of a great manager to get work done through other people.

Regardless of the ‘system’ HR requires you to follow, it’s essential that you as a manager set clear objectives with your people and create an on-going follow-up system to en[……]

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Setting clear objectives is essential to being a great Leader-Manager as I discussed in my last post, The Need for Clear Objectives – Part 1

Need for Clear Objectives

There I listed seven problems that prevent making objectives clear. Here I want to add seven more:


  • Using vague terms: When we ask for something ASAP – what does that mean? For the employee who already has a full plate, “as soon as possible” might mean 2 weeks from now. If you mean Wednesday at 2:00 – say, Wednesday at 2:00. Be specific when talking it through – both of you discussing what success looks like and what the boundaries are will ensure you have the same assignment in mind.
  • Not keeping them in the loop when things change: This one ties to the many conflicting priorities in peoples’ workloads. If this new objective is a higher priority – you need to let them know that. If priorities change tomorrow – you need to let them know ASAP (I mean, as soon as you know!) Here’s NOT what I’m talking about: a colleague of min[……]

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The first topic in this series on “Your First Year as a Leader-Manager” is: The Need for Setting Clear Objectives. It is absolutely essential that the objectives you set for your employees are CLEAR!

Need for Clear Objectives

Otherwise, the consequences might be pretty serious. In fact, your role as a manager depends on it.

Almost by definition, the core activity of being a manager is getting work done through other people.  Once you are promoted into management you are not only responsible for the work you deliver but you are also responsible for the work of everyone who reports to you.  They succeed – you succeed.  They fail – you…well… will probably no longer be a manager. This is why setting clear objectives is so important.

One of my favorite examples of setting clear objectives comes from a colleague of mine at Xerox.  While travelling on business, she called home to check-in with her family.  As she hung up the phone with her husband, she relayed the following story.  The objective given to[……]

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We all know what a financial bank account is.  We make deposits into it and build up a reserve from which we can make withdrawals when we need to.  An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship…If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve.  Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to.  I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it

Stephen R. Covey on The Emotional Bank Account

How do we build Trust?  The Trust Bank Account

By looking at the different facets of Trust we get an idea of how we can build Trust – as Stephen R. Covey (the senior) would put it – How do we make deposits?

Trust-full relationships - How do you build trust?

Sincerewe both mean what we say; There are no hidden agendas between us

If we notice hidden agendas or question another’s[……]

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Think (FIRST about INTENT) Before You Speak

Think before you speak.  Have you ever been told that?  It’s wise advice.  When I coach people about being more effective in their communication, I remind them to FIRST figure out what you are trying to accomplish through a conversation.  By establishing the INTENT of the conversation, the right words will form in your brain.  And if the right words form in your brain, it is more likely that the right words will come out of your mouth and the wrong words will not.  Simply put – Your communication mantra should be:  1st Mind (Intent), 2nd Body (Stance), 3rd Mouth (Words)

Businessman With Duct Tape On His MouthExample – Randy, please shut up and listen:  A manager I was coaching a couple of years back, asked me to follow him around for a day to see if I could figure out why people didn’t want to work with him – (that’s the polite way of saying… they thought he was a jerk).  So Randy and I went off to his first meeting.  I asked Randy:

CNM:  “So who called this meeting?”

RANDY:  “The director we are meeting with”

CNM:  “And what is the topic (INTENT) of this meeting?”

RANDY:  “I have no idea”

CNM – to myself:  “OK then, this is going to be good!”

Do you know what Randy did?  He sat down in the director’s office and started talking!  And TALKED… And TALKED… and TALKED…  For 20 minutes, he hijacked the conversation and did not let the director get a word in.  Finally, in frustration, the director said, “Randy! I asked you here today to discuss…”

CNM – to myself:  “Oh, thank goodness she finally stopped him!”


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