Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

How to Offer Constructive Feedback

As a boss I can get too focused on getting the job done. I lose sight of my team and forget to give them constructive feedback. As a wife and mother I can get overwhelmed with the schedule and the myriads of details necessary to keep the household running. I misplace the need to invest in relationship. It seems that this tendency is quite common among leaders.

Numerous surveys reveal that employees are dissatisfied with the amount of feedback they receive from employers. It’s not just positive feedback they desire. They are also looking for constructive criticism, to know how to improve their performance. Another complaint among employees is that feedback about excellent performance does not include how they can repeat it.

So how do we give constructive feedback?

Address specific behavior. It is not helpful to say, “You’re doing a great job!” While the person may feel pleased, he has no idea what specific actions led to the praise. On the flip side, a statement like, “I’m very disappointed in you” is similarly ineffective. The recipient does not know what created the dissatisfaction.

“I really like (specific behavior) the way you handled that dissatisfied customer. You listened to her complaints and worked hard to fix her situation.”

Explain the impact of specific behavior.  This is key, because it attaches the action to a result or consequence.

“I really like the way you handled that dissatisfied customer. You listened to her complaints and worked hard to fix her situation. (The impact) That showed how much we value her.”

Admittedly, it is easier to give positive constructive feedback than negative constructive feedback. We may worry about hurting feelings or stirring up conflict. As a result, we try to figure out how to sugarcoat it or ignore it. However, servant leaders must be devoted to the growth and well-being of their followers even if it feels uncomfortable in the moment.

Offer an alternative response. In the case of correction, share alternatives for handling the situation. It’s frustrating to hear that there is a problem without being offered a solution.

Provide constructive feedback in real time. Address a specific behavior as soon as possible. In the case of negative constructive feedback, wait until your emotions are controlled. Pray for wisdom to speak the truth in a firm and loving manner at the proper time. But don’t wait too long.

As servant leaders, let us be led by God’s Word as we offer feedback to others.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, grant me boldness to share constructive feedback with others. I desire to be an encouraging leader, helping people to grow in what you have called them to do. Teach me to point them to You, and patiently instruct them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Know Yourself; Be Yourself

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This weekend I had the rare and wonderful opportunity of being with family. In the past, these gatherings created a lot of stress as I tried to navigate the different expectations for each of my roles. So far being a grandma has produced nothing but joy. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure how to be a mom of grown kids with families of their own. It can also feel awkward being a grown daughter of a woman with a strong and confident personality. However, this time our get together felt comfortable. Perhaps it’s one of the perks of getting older. Even though I was mom, mother-in-law, grandma, daughter, sister, and auntie, all at the same time, I felt no performance anxiety. It was freeing to simply be myself, comfortable in my own skin.

The same applies to us as leaders. It is freeing when we are comfortable in our own skin. It should be our goal to lead with authenticity. We must be consistent and known for integrity. Followers trust a genuine leader who is open with them rather than hides behind a title or mask. Director, manager, pastor, coach, parent, spouse, instructor—our hats may change; our face must remain steadfast.

Here are three principles I follow, as I seek to thrive as an authentic leader.

Know yourself. God has created you with a distinctive combination of personality, strengths, spiritual gifts, physical attributes, and preferred ways of connecting with Him. Have you identified these special characteristics? There are many reputable assessments that can assist in the discovery process. Practice self-awareness. As you know yourself better, you can learn to accept yourself, and then delight in how God fashioned you inside and out.

Be yourself. This is really at the heart of authentic leadership. Do not act one way in public and another way in private. Your approach may change depending on the setting, but don’t become a different person. Be the same person with the same ethics whether you are with a major stakeholder, staff member, or family member. Be transparent with your mistakes and weaknesses, as well as your successes and strengths.

Commit to improve yourself. Partner with God to be the best you that you can be. You will never achieve perfection, but you should always be growing. How do your motivations and actions measure with the standards in God’s Word? Be teachable, willing to hear and learn from God and others. The Holy Spirit will empower you in the process of becoming more like Jesus as a servant leader.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person” (Proverbs 27:19 NLT).

Lord, help me to be an authentic leader. May I rejoice in who you have designed me to be. May my heart reflect Jesus Christ, and may my actions flow as a blessing to those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.