Giving tough feedback?
3 extra-strength techniques

Right now, one of your employees—let’s call him Bob—has
spinach between his teeth, metaphorically speaking.

Someone needs to tell him.

Here are three possible problems, plus three extra-strength techniques:

1) Bob can’t hear the feedback. You think you’re talking
about a little piece of spinach, but Bob thinks his entire
identity is under attack and gets defensive.

Use the evil twin technique.

Say: “Bob, this (the performance issue) is so UNLIKE YOU.
What happened?”

That allows Bob to preserve self-esteem, while he agrees
with you that the problem was an outlier and won’t happen

Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t blame the evil twin
because Bob’s behavior is EXACTLY like Bob.

But you can still make the feedback easier to hear.

Say: “Bob, unless we fix this, it’s going to derail your
career. You’re much too important to the organization, and
to me, for us to let that happen.”

2) Bob doesn’t understand it. Your feedback is unclear—
probably because it’s too general.

Use the video camera technique. Be specific.

Stick to what Bob did or didn’t do, said or didn’t
say—concrete behavior that, if you made a movie about Bob, anyone in their right mind, even Bob, would observe it.

Bad: “You were unprofessional at the client meeting.”
(“Unprofessional” is an interpretation, not observable
behavior. There are 1001 ways to be unprofessional.)

Still bad: “You seemed highly agitated.” (You can’t see

Better: “I noticed you gulped down 10 pills the size of
horse tranquilizers. Then you galloped out of the meeting.
Later, I heard some whinnying.”

3) Bob doesn’t know what to do about it.

The whole purpose of feedback is to influence the future.
The past is dead. If you only talk about the past, that’s

Criticism sounds bad: “Bob, you screwed this up, you
screwed that up, you screwed everything up. You’re a

That’s a tough message to motivate with.

Use future-focused feedback. Be the coach who pulls a
player off the field, whispers a few words of advice and
encouragement, then sends him back out.

Say these three key words: “The next time . . . For
example, “Bob, the next time you need to leave a meeting,
just walk out at your regular pace.”

Tip: Make sure your feedback is heard, understood, and

© Copyright 2018 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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