Like so many people, my morning is a crazed scene of getting kids & myself dressed, fed, ready and out the door, all while trying to respond to emails, and catch up on the news of the day, both online and from the TV blaring away in the other room. Sometimes it’s just a sea of chaos, but this morning my ears perked up when I heard Howard Stern’s voice coming from the other room. Now I know that Howard is not for everyone, but growing up in NY & NJ, we love him…even my mother-in-law (with her needlepoint loafers) is an avid listener, and in hearing about his new stint on America’s Got Talent, it occurred to me the reason he appeals to me at least, is his candor. He literally says what so many of us are thinking.
As a judge/mentor this will take on a different spin. No one wants to be ridiculed, but in life and work there is a place for honest critique that is often sorely lacking.
As Howard commented on the Today Show, “I am an honest judge and that’s what I think America needs.” “I watch ‘American Idol’ sometimes, and those three judges, they don’t have a word of criticism, and I think that’s selfish,” he insisted. “I think you owe it to the contestants to offer criticism.” “Not everyone is wonderful and what I am going to offer contestants is a way to win.”
Looking back at my own bosses and mentors, I have had some truly great ones, some absolutely horrid, and those that I consider tough but fair, and it’s from these tough ones that I think I gained the most. In all cases they were ever present, asking me questions, cheering me on and setting new standards to achieve, and doing it in a way that was fair and constructive.
So what are the best ways to give or ask for feedback at work?
1. Set up a time to meet in private – Having been on both sides, I prefer to schedule these meetings at the end of the day. Not only is the office quieter, but sometimes the information may be tough to give and even tougher to hear, so having it at the end of the day allows both sides to go home and digest what’s been said, (There is nothing worse than jumping back into work when you are agitated) and work it over a nice long run, a hot bath or favorite bottle of wine.
2. Stay positive – Performance meetings shouldn’t be viewed as something horrible, but instead as a way to discuss what has and has not worked, ideas going forward and constructive feedback. If you instantly go on the defensive, neither side is going to open up and nothing will be accomplished. Great companies are the result of teamwork and giving people the tools to grown, so if leading one of these meetings, be sure to remember the rule of Positive-Negative-Postive. Start with something positive, then address any negatives or concerns you have, and then be sure to end the meeting with something else positive.
3. Meet regularly and set goals – Forget the annual review!! According to a 2011 MoodTracker study “an ongoing, 365-day performance management solution that accurately measures employees’ year-round performance not only drives engagement, it uncovers the true leaders and influencers across the organization. This type of approach, driven by a strategic recognition program, provides employees with the feedback, appreciation, and direction they need to approach their peak performance level.”
4. Keep it to yourself – While tempting to engage in water cooler chatter, resist the urge! Like a parent, bosses encourage and drive different people in different ways. Your goals and expectations may not be the same as those around you. What is discussed behind closed doors should remain there.
5. Mentor those around you – Just because you are not the boss, does not mean you can’t offer honest (yet POSITIVE) feedback to your colleagues. A great workplace is about culture, so do your part in creating an environment that is cohesive, but drives great work.