Feedback and How to Retain Your Talent

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. – Ken Blanchard

Imagine a world in which you, a leader, can lower your company’s turnover rate significantly. Think of a place where your great talent stays at their job longer. Imagine not having to stop your work to train new employees all the time. Guess what? That place can be real! We just should do a few things differently. Here is an example of where the feedback was absent.

Man in a suit gives a rolled letter of resignation isolated on white background. Image with clipping path.

A regional manager, that was in one of my workshops about communication, started to do exit interviews with their leaving staff, something she said her company had not done consistently. “The top two reasons were almost always the same,” she told us, “They did not feel communicated to or appreciated.” The secret is, and it is not much of a secret, she is not alone! No matter where I travel to or what industry I am working with, I hear the same stories over and over. Each of them tasting the same but dipped in a light coating of their own flavor due to industry or company culture.

How Full is Your Bucket Book CoverSo how do we stop the bleeding on our front lines? How do we get people to stick around and love their jobs? We tell them how wonderful they are doing at it currently! The response I normally get when I say that in a workshop is “I do that all the time and it does not work!” When I dig deeper, I find that they are not giving feedback correctly. The world is full of the “good job” emails which get deleted as quickly as the mail servers can deliver it. Yes, you said good job, but did your employees hear it? No, they did not. And here are some numbers to back it up.

In the book, How Full is Your Bucket?, Tom Rath and Donald Clifton tell us through their research that 67% of Americans felt they received NO appreciation at work in the last year. However, when the leaders were asked if they give effective at feedback, many of them thought they were great. There is a huge disconnect between what we as leaders think and what our associates think. We MUST close that gap for ourselves, for them, and for the business.

So, if we know we are saying it but they are not hearing it, how do we make them hear it? Simple, say it differently. We must give feedback in a way they hear, and it sinks in. There is a three-step easy way to give feedback that rocks people to their core. It sounds so simplistic, but it really is powerful! I call it the three F’s of Feedback. Frame – Focus – Fasten. Let’s look at each one on its own.

FRAME

You want to mentally take them back to the time and place where you observed the behavior. In framing them in that place, they can get back to what they were thinking that moment, how they were feeling, and what was going on in their life. This allows them to connect to that moment in time. Once they are anchored back in that time and place, you can move on to focusing on their behaviors.

FOCUS

Let’s begin this with an example in the form of a little scenario. You are talking to one of your coworkers. As you explain your views on the new project, he starts squinting more as if trying to figure out where you are getting these crazy ideas. At one point, he puts his hand on his forehead shielding his eyes and shakes his head at you. Finally, he puts up his hand and says “I just can’t…” and walks off.

African american with head pain, isolated on white background

When you confront him the next day, you frame the place and time and begin with “Yesterday in the hall while we were talking”. The next step is Focus on the behaviors. So, you continue with “You were really rude to me and my ideas”. To which he responds “What are you talking about!? I got a migraine and needed to go take my headache pills. I am sorry to cut you off, but I was in a lot of pain.” To that, you feel about three inches tall as you realized you made some big assumptions in your mind; wrong assumptions! We need to focus on the exact behaviors we observed without adding any meaning or assumptions that we made ourselves.

How about another example? In Tuesday’s team meeting, Bob was angry and disruptive in the meeting. You call Bob into your office to give him some feedback. “Bob, in Tuesday’s team meeting, you we really angry and I want to talk about how that disrupted the other team members.” He quickly jumps in with “I was not angry! I don’t know what you are talking about, Boss!”

Let’s focus only on the behaviors that we observed rather than our assumptions. “Bob, in Tuesday’s team meeting, you came in late, you loudly dropped your books on the table, as I was presenting you rolled your eyes and sighed heavily. What I asked you your thoughts, you said “whatever” but did not add to the discussion. Once the meeting was over Bob, you wadded up the handouts you were given and tossed them in the trash as you walked out of the room.”

When put in that way, it is hard for Bob to start dodging. He physically did each one of those things. Focus on their behaviors that you observe. Think of it like a movie being shown or your favorite sports game, and you are going to call the action without adding any of your own color commentary. Keep it focused on the observed behaviors only.

Clothes pegs on the clothesline.Sunny spring day.FASTEN

Once you have framed the time and place and focused only on the behaviors observed, it is time to fasten the effects of their behaviors on you, the team, and the business. I will use the original example of Bob being angry in the team meeting. “Bob, due to these behaviors, I felt my information was not valued, and the team was distracted. I would like to discuss this with you.”

You will explain in both the mental and emotional impact on you, the team, and perhaps the business. It may be easier to remember “Smart and Heart.” Describe how you felt in that moment. What emotions were in play for you, the team, and again, the business? Also, what is the impact on the business financially due to these behaviors. Perhaps there was a project on the line that did not get completed due to the behaviors of that person. Share those as well as the “touchy-feely emotional stuff.”

THE BEST PART

The 3 F’s of Feedback does not have to be a negative thing! Quite the contrary really! You should use this daily to give positive feedback to your employees.

“Bob, yesterday during the team meeting, you got up front and commanded everyone’s attention. You presented your data in an easy to understand manor, and you spoke gracefully. I did not see you stutter or shake. You did not forget your words, and if I would not have known you were afraid of public speaking I would have never known! You did great! The way you presented that data was completely new to me. I am going to have to rethink my presentations now. Great job, Bob!”

You could simply walk out, as you pass Bob at the door, and say “good meeting.” Which do we normally do as leaders? Yes, the second one. Which one would have the most impact on Bob, make him feel valued, and want to stay with you through thick and thin? Yeah, the first one.

It really is that simple. Our staff does great things every day. They may be colored into the mundane after all the years we have been doing them, but they are still the things that keep us in business. Show appreciation for those things using the 3 F’s of Feedback. You will see the engagement level and the morale of your employees rise through the roof.

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