Choose to Encourage

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Encouragement works far better than criticism or, said euphemistically, “feedback.” Criticism causes resistance. Encouragement opens. It is the wiser, more capable part of us reminding them of their wiser, more capable part of themselves.

Try it and watch them shine.


In your corner,


Praise Early, Praise Often

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We have also been taught not to praise. Maybe it’s supposed to spoil people or something. Regardless, we don’t do it enough.

Praise, done well, is powerful. It feels good to give and get. It counters the negativity that can dominate our days. And it is a superb way to teach and lead.

Just catch someone doing something right. As soon as possible after they’ve done that something, tell them specifically what they did, why what they did matters, and what helpful trait they demonstrated. Tone is important, of course. To get it right, simply be appreciative.

If you are ever unsure about giving praise, imagine how you’d react if people regularly caught you doing the right thing and telling you honestly how well you had done.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit:
Magalie L’Abbé

Giving Feedback Well

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 2 min.

One of the hardest parts of being a leader is pointing out how someone’s behaviors are doing damage or how their results are lacking. Here are some tips for giving feedback well.

  • Be calm. If we are angry, worried, fearful, or tense, they will react poorly. Best to wait until we are calm.
  • Be direct and specific. State what you notice and why this is a problem. See if you can express it cleanly, calmly, and respectfully in just one or two sentences.
  • Allow a moment.  Let there be a bit of silence after you say what you notice and why it’ a problem. This gives you time to more accurately notice their reactions and gives them time to understand the importance.
  • Ask their perspective. If the issue involves other people’s reactions/feedback, let them say their point of view. Be open to the very real possibility that others contributed to the problem.
  • Reaffirm your faith. Believe that they will improve the situation and tell them that you believe it.
  • Coach solutions. “Let’s explore ways you can improve the situation. What might you try?”

Finally, move quickly but not too quickly. Going too fast makes it hard for us to gather data, hear the nuances, and minimize any bias. Letting issues fester causes much more pain than dealing with it now.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: stephanie cc


Caring Critique

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
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We can’t control how people will take criticism or feedback. Any prescription for how we do it (directly, indirectly, gently, or abruptly) might work.

If we want our feedback to be heard and acted upon, though, there is one thing we can do. We can quietly affirm to ourselves our respect for and belief in the other person before we give our criticism. They will feel our caring intent and hear the critique. We will be shocked when they respond better than we otherwise might have hoped.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: catd_mitchell cc

gold star

Give Positive Feedback ASAP

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
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As with negative feedback, positive feedback is best when we make it specific and deliver it as soon as possible.

Positive feedback is far more valuable than negative feedback, though both are necessary. And it’s not just because people ache to know what they are doing well. Lots of honest, positive feedback lays a strong foundation upon which we can build trusting relationships, create highly effective work teams, and earn the right and respect to lead them.

Who has done something well or (for starters) even close to well today? Tell ’em!


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Epic Fireworks cc


Give Negative Feedback ASAP

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
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Giving negative feedback is tough. None of us, really, likes conflict. Giving feedback or correcting can be so tough that we will go to great lengths not do it.

But not giving negative feedback has undesirable consequences. It lets our frustration build, denies the other person the right to know and correct problems, strains the relationship, makes it harder and harder to finally have the conversation, and makes it even harder for the other person to do something about it all.

Instead, let’s give feedback as soon as possible. If it feels tough now, it’ll be so much worse if we ignore it.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Dennis Skley cc


Five-Minute Feedback

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 3 min.

Giving others feedback is one of the more difficult jobs of a leader. It can be so uncomfortable. We know we have to do it and do it well. But we can’t see an easy way. So plow through it quickly to get it over with, delay it (sometimes for way too long), try to get someone else to do it, or (shudder) send it in an email.

Here’s a method for giving great feedback that anyone can do in, usually, five minute or less.

  • Prepare: Set you intent. You are here to help them succeed more. See them as more than capable of hearing this feedback and creatively resolving it with you. Choose a neutral, clear, friendly tone. Plan the sentences in the next section before you meet to give the feedback. Find a safe, private place to meet.
  • Deliver:
    • Open with one, compact sentence. (“I have some feedback to share with you.”)
    • State the problematic behavior specifically and in one, compact sentence. (“I notice you tend to cut off clients and colleagues when they are speaking.”)
    • State the desired behavior in one, compact sentence. (“Instead, please listen carefully until they have finished speaking.”)
    • State the rationale in one, compact sentence. Choose a rationale that aligns with their motivators. (“People will trust you more if you do.” or “You will get their buy in much quicker.”)
  • Check: Ask them to say to you–in their words–what they just heard you say. “So that we are both on the same page, please tell me what you heard me say.”
  • Clarify: Invite them to ask any questions they may have. Answer their questions. Avoid getting defensive. If you don’t know an answer, tell them that you will find out and follow up later. If they get way too upset, stop; ask them if they would like to reschedule for a better time.
  • Resolve: Ask them to brainstorm with you ways they can adopt the desired behavior and ways you can help.
  • Review: Agree to a follow-up time where you will review progress and offer further coaching and encouragement.

That’s it. With a bit of practice, we can usually deliver this sort of feedback in under 5 minutes. (It will take longer as we learn to do this well and if there is built-up emotion due, normally, to poor prior communication and feedback.) Of course, planning those “one, compact” sentences will take a bit more planning before you meet. The compact sentences and planning are important. Winging it or using too many words prolongs their discomfort before you get to the Resolve stage.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Faruk Ateş cc


The Best Way to Receive Criticism

Posted Leave a commentPosted in We=All Who Matter
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Like buffaloes walking toward storms to reduce the duration of their exposure, we can best weather criticisms by heading right for them.

Try this. Ask the people who matter in your career (and life) what they think you do well and what you could improve. Thank them for their candor. After gathering their input, select just one thing to work on. Then go back and ask these people who matter for ideas and tips about how you can improve this one thing. Respond simply, “Thank you,” to each suggestion. Put into use the best ideas you hear. Check in again with the people who matter once every 6 weeks or so to ask about your progress and their further insights.

Exposing ourselves to criticism and asking people who matter their opinions about how we might improve feels uncomfortable and vulnerable, yes? In fact, seeking criticism and suggestions like this usually improves people’s opinions of us. Soon, we will have improved and they will know it.


In your corner,


PS: People who matter include peers, clients, bosses, friends, family, and (bonus points if you use them) enemies.


Today’s photo credit: Wise Old Bison, Yellowstone, 2011 via photopin cc

How to Know What They Need from You

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Success, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 2 min.

In yesterday’s post, we discussed how to give and get useful, easy-to-hear feedback. With that feedback, you know what you are doing well, what could improve, and how you might go about improving.

That feedback is helpful and incomplete. It focuses narrowly on your performance. What about the bigger picture that looks at you in your role, on your team, and in your organization?

One reader said that she would like to know that bigger picture. In particular, she asks,

  1. Am I contributing sufficiently to the goals? Unfortunately I am not sure I really know what these are. I want to be sure I am adding value. How would I ask this?
  2. Where is my role going in the future? How will it, and how I will, develop over the next 12-24 months?

To learn how well you are contributing to the goals of your organization, try asking some or all of these questions:

  • At the end of the year, what results (qualitative or quantitative) will tell you that I have done my role well?
  • How does our team contribute to the organization-at-large?
  • (Presuming you are asking your boss) What results are you committed to deliver this year?
  • What is the organization-at-large committed to delivering this year?

To learn about how you and your role will develop in the future, keep taking a win-win approach. Try asking

  • What is coming down the pipe? What longer-term issues or opportunities do the organization face? How about our team?
  • How can I help?

You and your role will develop best when in support of your team’s and your organization’s goals.


In your corner,


How to Make Feedback Easier

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Leading, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 1

How well are you serving your company, team, clients, and boss?

It is critically important to know how you are doing. And often difficult to find out. We don’t want to hear that/if/where we are dropping the ball. And those around us do not want to or know how to tell us how well or poorly we are doing.

Here is a way that you can make it easier for them to tell you and you to hear important feedback.

Simply ask these 4 questions:

  1. “What do you appreciate about my work?”
  2. “What one thing would you recommend I improve upon? “
  3. “What suggestions do you have to help me improve that thing you just mentioned?”
  4. “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”

For each answer they give, you simply say, “Thank you.”

Thank them again at the end and tell them you will study what they’ve shared and get back to them.

In your corner,