OK, I admit it. If there is one leadership skill I feel completely challenged by, it is providing feedback for staff members.

Like other “demanding” High D’s (some may think of it as a Type A personality), I do not suffer fools gladly. Yet surprisingly, I find it more difficult to be totally honest when performance is lacking.

In a face-to-face discussion with a staff member, I’m more likely to soften my criticism. I will struggle with good comments, then follow frequently with a “but” or “however”, and the impact of the statement is lost.

Certainly I never wanted to be like Steve Jobs. Everything I’ve read indicates that he was very direct, to the point of being cruel. Amazingly though, even the people who hated him for his attitude, ended up loving him and the feeling of success they had around them. Still, that’s just not my style.

But I understand that in the end, my current style - softening criticism, trying not to hurt a staff members’ feelings - isn’t fair to either parties. I also understand the need, and my responsibility to help staff grow in their jobs.

In my quest for change, I read an article on giving feedback to Millennials. The author, Alexandra Bideaua made some good recommendations:

  • 1. Be honest and authentic
  • 2. Focus on facts, not emotions
  • 3. Have a dialogue not a monologue
  • 4. Challenge staff to find and recommend a solution
  • 5. Give your feedback in a timely fashion

Her final recommendation is to deliver the feedback using the communication technology most suitable to the staff member. In the past we likely always set a face-to-face meeting. Today, we are dealing with virtual teams, meaning face-to-face is not possible. So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.

And while Bideaua’s comments are applicable for all members of your organization not just Millennials, she made special mention that many Millennials say they prefer to communicate electronically. So if instant messaging or email is best for them, go for it.

Regardless of the communication method used, the bottom line is that when you provide feedback to staff, show that you are aware of their performance, and you support them.

If you have any other suggestions that could be shared in a future blog, I’d welcome your feedback.

About Dale

Dale Wilcox is co-owner of WATMEC. Dale is a respected board member, former volunteer of the year, and inaugural Chair of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.