Three Well-Meaning Feedback Phrases to Avoid

donthearyouEmployee feedback is important.  Just as important is how we provide that feedback. As managers, it is our role to build, support and encourage. Three well-meaning phrases I used to use and have eliminated are:

“If it was me, …”:  

“If it was me, I would have said …”.  “If it was me, I would have made …”.

The problem with “if it was me” is … it wasn’t you!  “If it was me” tends to be used in conversations when someone, somewhere did not act or speak in a manner approved by the speaker. “If it was me” doesn’t acknowledge:

  • Different view points, methodologies or perspectives
  • The other person’s experience or lack of experience
  • The possibility that perhaps it was you who failed by not providing adequate tools, training or resources
  • What the individual did right

“If it was me” slams the door on conversations that could provide valuable information and insight.  Instead of saying “if it was me”, try:

  • What worked well?
  • Is there something you could do differently that would result in a better outcome?
  • Why did you try that?
  • Is there a reason …?
  • Was there something about the situation that made you uncomfortable?
  • Is there something I can do to help you?

There is no one just like you.  Get past you and focus on them.

You’re doing a great job, but …

Generally one of two things happen when this phrase is used. The employee immediately forgets the great job part as soon as you say ‘but’ and starts holding their breath, waiting for the bad news, or they stop listening when they hear ‘you’re doing a great job’.

Instead of trying to combine the good and the constructive all in one sentence, focus on successes and criticism separately.  It’s not that you can’t share both successes and areas where improvement is required in one meeting; just don’t combine them in one sentence.

And please, don’t only share the good stuff in an effort to soften the blow of of constructive feedback. You don’t want your team members to cringe every time they hear ‘good job.’

Good job

What does good job mean?

Instead of saying “good job”, be specific about what your employee is doing well.  Did he or she manage an unhappy company with grace and skill? What in particular was done well? Focusing on and sharing highlights and specifics is so much more meaningful than an off the cuff ‘good job.’

You don’t need to go into a long laundry list of each and every thing that was done well. That comes across as pandering or condescending.  Look for and then share specific areas of success and tie it back to how it helps the employee, the team, the company or the customer.

These are three phrases I have learned to avoid or adapt. Are there some phrases you no longer use?  Why and how have you changed them to be more effective?

You Look Great … for Your Age

Bridge and the abyssYes, it’s true. I have reached that magical age where I am told I look great … for my age. I’m not sure that’s a compliment!  Compliment or not, that phrase brought to mind all the many judgments and assumptions we make about people based on age.

Here’s what I think about this whole generational divide. We make it bigger than it really is. Many of us forget that at one point, it was our generation that was going to ruin the world or save it, depending on which side of that divide a person was sitting on.

I was reading an article the other day on this very topic and the author said something along the lines of “as we get older, our adventure window starts to close and we view those with their windows wide open as suspect.”  Millennials don’t have the years of experience we have. Many have wide open adventure windows. They haven’t learned to back away from opportunity because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”  That’s a good thing, but slightly off putting for those of us who have.

Another author said “Why don’t we just view everyone as a person first?”  A great question! When we lump people into a category, we assume everyone in that category views the world around them the exact same way. That has never been true for any generation. In every generation, there are are leaders and followers. There are people who push boundaries and those who prefer to live well within the boundaries of the current norm.  It is the people who push, who question and who perhaps sometimes demand instead of ask, that create change.

We can all learn from each other.  And for those of us who’ve been around a little longer, I believe we have the obligation to create environments where open dialogue happens. Let’s not expect the young and the brash to already know the lessons it took us years to learn.

Let’s crack our adventure window open just a little wider and let’s not take those back-handed compliments personally.  Be patient with the eye-rolling and sometimes condescending attitudes the younger folks give us. After all, someday they will be on the receiving end of them and wondering just how quickly those darn kids are going to destroy all the good they created!

10 Tips to Build Strong Healthy Relationships

Strong, healthy personal relationships are built on strong foundation of communication, trust and mutual understanding.  So how do you build those qualities and relationships with your service team?

Here are 10 suggestions:   

  1. Recognize that successful relationships take work. Trusting relationships don’t happen overnight.  They take time to develop; there needs to be a desire to develop a successful relationship and a commitment to dedicating time and effort to make it happen.
  2. Understand and celebrate differences. Strong service teams are made up of individuals with unique skills, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and personalities.  Recognize and acknowledge the unique contribution each person brings to your business
  3. Acknowledge each person in some way every day.  Start off each morning with a smile and a brief check-in.  Find something positive to share every day, either to individuals on the team or to the entire team.
  4. Don’t speak while angry. Reacting to annoyances, missed opportunities or poor performance with anger shuts down communication.  It also means you are focusing on your frustration instead of the problem or the solution.  The next time you are frustrated or angry, take a moment to calm down before addressing the situation.
  5. Get regular tune-ups.  Molehills, small frustrations and annoyances, turn into mountains if they are not addressed early on.  Set aside time to meet with your team members on a regular basis.  Find out what is going well and where they need additional support.
  6. Be responsible for your own behaviour.  If there is conflict, don’t assume it’s entirely the other person’s fault.  Instead of focusing on their behaviour, make sure you are not contributing to any negativity.  Find out what changes you can make in your behaviour and then make them.
  7. Give what you want to get. Treat your service team the way you want them to treat their customers. Be the example.
  8. Set goals together.  You expect your service team to work in such a way that goals are met. Invite them into the process of setting the goals, the strategies and tactics on how to achieve those goals.  That makes your goals, their goals.
  9. Stop talking and listen. Don’t provide all the answers. Ask questions and then wait for your team to come up with ideas. Ask for feedback, comments and suggestions and then stop talking. Give your team the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas freely.
  10. Be willing to compromise.  There are some things that can’t be compromised. Honesty, safety, integrity and service standards are just some examples.  But there are times when compromise is very possible. Don’t get hung up on “my way” instead of the end objective.  Rigid schedules that don’t recognize a full life outside of work can kill a relationship. Rigid adherence to outdated, unnecessary policies damage morale.  Look for common ground wherever possible.

People in strong,healthy personal relationships feel better about themselves and life in general.  People in strong, healthy service teams also feel better about themselves, their customers and the company they work for.  Building strong, healthy relationships is hard work, but worth the effort.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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What are some things you do to build a strong foundation of communication, trust and mutual understanding at your company?

How to Respond to Customer Complaints

When faced with an unhappy or angry customer, your response to that situation has the potential to defuse it or make it worse.

If handled incorrectly, a disappointed customer may turn into an angry customer.  If handled incorrectly, a disappointed customer may decide you don’t care about them and resolve never to come back to your business.  Even worse, that customer may decide to tell their family, their friends and their colleagues to NEVER do business with you either.  They may log into Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to spread the message, which means even more people will get a negative impression about your business.

Whenever possible, try to resolve the situation BEFORE the customer walks out the door. That means listening and watching for clues of customer dissatisfaction.  A lot of customers will tell you everything is fine even when it’s not. Some may believe it’s not worth their time to lodge a complaint or perhaps they don’t believe anything will be done anyway. It’s up to you and your service team to find out about any issues or service concerns and address them quickly. The LEAPT strategy may help

Listen:  It’s not easy to listen to a customer complaint. Some customers are rude, some can’t seem to get to the point, and very often you have other things you need to deal with.  Put all of that aside and truly listen to what the customer is telling you.  Give them some time to get their anger and frustration out. Watch your emotions. Focus on the specifics of their complaint, not their personality or their delivery method.  Ask questions, nod, take notes.

Empathize:  Be sure your customer feels confident that you are understanding their concern. Ask yourself “How would I feel if this happened to me?” Don’t think about how you would act if it did happen to you, as that quickly leads to judging actions rather than focusing on the problem and the solution.

Apologize:  If you or someone on your team messed up, apologize.  If you had no control over the situation, apologize anyway.  An apology is not always an admission of guilt.  It is genuine regret that your customer’s expectations were not met.

Partner:  This step means working with the customer to come up with the remedy together.  Some people wait to deal with any issue until they have all the facts and potential solutions in place before interacting with the customer. Big mistake!  You’re just giving them time to get angrier and angrier. Very often, if listen, empathize and apologize were taken care of immediately and with sincerity, the resolution has already been found.  What most customers want is to be listened to, to have their disappointment acknowledged and to receive an apology.  Yes, some will want discounts, coupons, a free meal or a free stay and that’s ok.  A free meal, a coupon or a free stay costs your business a lot less than negative messaging.

Thank:  Thank the customer for sharing their disappointment with you. Instead of just leaving, they gave you an opportunity to fix it.  Instead of telling their family, friends and colleagues about their negative experience, they told you. Their complaint gave you the chance to make things right for this customer and perhaps other customers as well.

We need to know when a customer is unhappy and we need to take steps to address the problem immediately.  Customers are our bread and butter. They give us a reason to get up every day and go to work. Without customers, there is no work.

What are some things you do when a customer voices a complaint?

Shut up and Listen

When my husband and I first started dating, we didn’t see each other that often, but every time we did, he would ask me a question related to a discussion from our previous date.  The fact that he remembered details I’d shared, from in some cases over a week in the past, made me feel valued, appreciated, interesting and respected.

One role of an effective leader is to make team members feel valued, appreciated, interesting and respected.  That is why effective leaders spend more time listening than talking.   They understand that listening helps team and business success.

Listening, really listening, is not an easy thing to do.  Hearing is easy, but listening takes time, it takes commitment and it takes an open mind.  For those of us who are listening-challenged, the good news is that listening is a skill that can be learned.

Here is a list of five things great listeners do:

  1. Focus physically on the speaker. They face the person squarely, lean in slightly, keep an open body posture and maintain eye contact. Their body says “What you are saying is important and I am focusing on you and what you have to say.”
  2. Do not allow external distractions to interfere.  They are not looking at their watch, the clock on the wall or their cell phone.  They are not checking for emails.  They ask for calls to be held or they put the phone on do not disturb.  They ask to move a conversation to a quieter place if necessary.
  3. Stay in the moment. They don’t think about what they are going to say next.  Instead, they listen to the speaker’s point and then formulate a response or question.
  4. Keep an open mind.  They don’t allow assumptions, perceptions or internal distractions to interfere with the listening process.  They don’t make up their mind to agree or disagree before the conversation is finished.
  5. Ask questions to ensure understanding.  Active listeners make sure they really understand by asking clarifying questions. 

Bonus:  Effective leaders and great listeners don’t jump in with solutions or ideas. They ask questions to ensure understanding and encourage the speaker to formulate their own ideas and solutions.

Becoming a great listener takes time and practice, but it’s worth it.  When people feel their knowledge, ideas and suggestions are welcomed, valued and respected, teams and businesses are more successful.