Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good bosses do the 'ugly stuff' well

Been thinking about leaders I’ve worked for and how they handled feedback about performance. The best ones knew how to criticise effectively. Many of them screwed it up and were lousy at giving feedback.

I recall one particular boss in my entire 35 year career in healthcare who explained to me in a private 1-2-1 why I didn’t get the job I’d applied for. I had felt I had a good interview for the job and I was well qualified for the position. To be honest I was pretty angry when I went into his office for feedback. I came out half an hour later agreeing with him that I was not the right person for that job. He was right; I was wrong simple as that. The thing that made him stand out above the rest was he valued me by giving me time, in privacy. Though busy, he was not rushed. He allowed me to talk and asked me how I felt it went – he was clearly a superb listener. Most bosses I had were either: Too rushed; disinterested; too 'clinical' and cold; too personal; or too negative when giving uncomfortable feedback which made me feel even worse.

People only expect (rightly) to be valued as a person - doesn't seem unreasonable does it?

None of us accept criticism well. The good news is there are some bosses who do it well. Long may they reign!


Dave Wheeler said...


What separates critism and coaching? The way in which the information is delivered. It's not what you say, it's how it's received that makes communication effective...

Joel D Canfield said...

The only way to get someone to do something is to help them want to do it.

And the only person who'll bother is someone who cares.

Every supervisor (and going further back, every teacher) who made an impact on me gave the distinct impression that they cared. Then, when they offered guidance, counsel, criticism, I loved it and used it.

J.KANNAN said...

Hi Trevor,

Criticism used to be a bonus for me which I used to accept gracefully, that's why in my Industry I am cinsidered to be a stalwart. I used to respond and re-act to criticism in affirmative way with my past bosses and I believe in my simple policy that I have made clear to my Bosses "You scratch my back and I shall in turn scratch your back and not your balls(Pardon and no offense pl my dear and friendly readers and take it in a humour) and this has worked well with me in my career and my bosses have put an abrupt end to criticise me instead started careing for me Sir. This is really true.


Trevor Gay said...

Great stuff - thanks all. Caring is the key it seems - I'd buy that.

Your bosses certianly needed to make sure they were kind JK :-)

Unknown said...

A great thought-provoker!

I agree completely with you, Trevor, and with Joel. It is about caring and integrity - the spirit of intent. What is it you intend in the delivery of your feedback and/or constructive criticism? To be honest and uplifting, clear, concise and enabling? Or disabling and destabilising? Only one of these will lead to positive outcomes and intended results. Unless, that is, your intention is to run the organisation into the ground!

Marilyn Jess said...

Hi Trevor,

Haven't we all been in similar situations? A job we think is perfect for us goes to someone else, and we feel cheated.

Bravo to your boss--he understood that people need to feel heard, and be treated like adults. Adults, and even children, to an extent on their level of understanding, deserve an explanation, and an honest one.

Key word, honest. That is a huge missing link in business today. Too often the manager is spouting the company line, hoping to avoid the dreaded lawsuit. Do they not think empoyees can tell?

As Dave wisely said, how the information is received/perceived makes all the difference.

A short illustration. A colleague was denied, for the second time, the internship she needed to get her professional credential. I was her boss.

I told her that she could take the day and grieve that loss. The next day, I asked her to call the internship director and ask her why she wasn't accepted. That wise director gave her the advice of what to do to be accpeted. She did this, and the next round she made it.

I bet NO ONE else who didn't make it took the time to call the director. That counts, too.

Trevor Gay said...

Thenks Brian - sadly in my experience there are some managers who see feedback as some sort of power trip. Never been able to understand that mentality myself.

Hope you are well mate!

Trevor Gay said...

Great story Marilyn – it’s always good to hear such wise heads exist.

As well as meeting managers who were ignorant of the ‘feelings bit’ I was blessed to meet some who really understood that feelings matter. I've always said that management is always and only about people - nothing else matters. If people issues are not first on your agenda every day of your working life as a manage then you may as well pack up and go home now.