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?

Why Performance Reviews Suck

thumbs-down1Ok .. it’s not really that performance reviews suck; it’s that they are very often completed poorly.  Some of my personal pet peeves when it comes to performance reviews are:

1. They are considered stand-alone tools.  Instead of coaching, mentoring, training and supporting on an on-going basis, notes are kept in the file (or even worse, in the head) as to all the things not being done well and then brought up during the review.  Years ago, my husband started a new job.  He walked into his three-month review feeling pretty good only to walk out completely deflated because his supervisor spent the entire time telling him all the things he wasn’t doing right. Why in the world would she have let him continue perfecting incorrect behaviour for three entire months instead of helping him successfully transition into a new job?  From a purely selfish perspective, a well-run department would make her look good to her bosses, right?  At the same time, waiting three months or a year to let someone know when they did something well is also not a good idea.

2. Supervisors / managers buy into the “never give more than one exceeded expectations, if any”. Really?  Why?  If someone is performing above standard, if they shine in particular areas, why in the world should that not be acknowledged? Some people subscribe to the belief that the employee will no longer care and stop working.  Who the heck are you hiring then?  If someone is rocking in a certain area, let them know. Provide examples and discuss how to get other areas up or perhaps take on more responsibility based on their particular area of amazingness.

3.  No specific examples are provided.  Not one single example provided should be news to the employee (see point one). But if you are going to indicate someone is still not meeting expectations, know why and be able to provide specific examples. Same holds true for exceeding expectations.  Providing examples brings validity to the review and demonstrates you took the time to really think about this.

4.  Nobody really knows what “meet expectations” means.  If categories are included on the performance review, at some point during orientation and training, each employee needs to know what is expected of them in order to at least receive a “meet” and what could help them get an “exceed”.

5. It’s a “listen to me” session as opposed to a discussion.  When a performance review is considered a stand-alone tool, there is really no reason to spend time discussing how to move from unmet to met or from met to exceeding.  There is no reason to ask “How can I help you?”.

Stand-alone performance reviews, completed only because it is a task on the to-do list, get stuck in a file and are never looked at again.  Everybody hates them and they are pretty much a waste of time.

I am not advocating throwing out performance reviews. I am suggesting using the performance review as a time to review successes and plan for future successes is time well spent.

What do you think?  Have you ever walked out of a performance review going “that was time sell spent”. What made it valuable for you? 



Live what you Believe

Living our life to it’s full potential, enjoying deep, meaningful personal relationships and business success, whatever that definition of success is, is much more likely to happen when we live a congruent life. So what does that mean? To me, it means two things:

One:  Practicing what you preach.    

Our children won’t listen when we tell them it’s wrong to steal if we then turn around and bring home office supplies.  They won’t listen to us telling them to follow their dreams if we have none of our own.

Our employees won’t listen when we tell them to treat co-workers with respect if we then turn around and chastise someone publicly for an error.  They will stop answering our questions if we never respond or act on any of their suggestions. There is no point in telling others not to gossip if we love to participate in rumour-fests.

Two:  Living your values and your beliefs

Many of us live lives that are expected of us, as opposed to living our life our way.  We live the lives our parents, our friends or our boss suggests as being the right path.

I spent a good part of my adult years trying hard to be the person I thought other people wanted me to be. Many of the decisions I made were made to please someone else; they were not made to help me move towards my personal or my professional goals.  In reality, I didn’t have my own personal or professional goals.  I only had what I assumed were other people’s expectations of who I should be.  There was only one person responsible for that life – me and no one else.

I spent many years in a career that I simply did not find fulfilling.  I was good at what I did and enjoyed some success and yet, it was never enough.  I felt like I was on a constant search for something missing.  It wasn’t until I took the time to identify what my core values were, to know what was truly important to me, not to anyone else, that I was able to create a life plan based on me.   The journey is on-going, there are moments, days when I fall into the old habit of taking the easy way out.  Those moments happen less often, mainly because the better I understand myself, the easier it is to make choices in harmony with my values and my beliefs.

The Benefits of Living a Life of Congruency

When you clearly understand what your values are, what you believe in and what is important to you, you are more confident; you face the day with eagerness, energy and passion.  That confidence, eagerness and passion draw people to you.  Think about it.  Don’t you like to spend time with people just like that?  Others feel the same way.

Your genuineness, your honesty and your integrity generates feelings of trust in the people around you.  When people trust you, they want to do business with you, they are more willing to listen to and act on ideas and suggestions you share; they are more willing to listen period.

Living a life of congruency means being brave enough to find out who we really are, what we believe in and then having the courage to get rid of the old and embrace new possibilities.

Are you living a life in harmony with your own uniqueness?  What are some things you do to bring congruency to your personal and professional life?