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The ultimate gift to an employee

Posted by Vivian Wong on September 3, 2008


We all have talents and our job as managers is to bring out individual’s strengths and help them develop additional skills to be more successful at their jobs. This has a direct impact on employee engagement, retention, job satisfaction and of course the bottom line of the business. In order to do this, we need to create a safe and collaborative environment for team members to ask for help, give them resources to help themselves, as well as looking out for opportunities to challenge them to perform to the next level.
 
Easy said than done.
 
As managers we need to understand what motivates our team members to begin with (beyond money and stock), define and enforce core values with them as a team, and provide both constructive and positive feedback REGULARLY. It’s easy to give positive feedback (although we probably should do it more often) but giving constructive feedback is often the hard part of management – but it really is also the most critical aspect in helping someone with his or her professional growth.
 
On the giving front, we need to have the “right” intent. We give constructive feedback because we want someone to be more successful, not because we have an ill intent of busting him or her for doing something wrong. We need to be sensitive to the recipients and how they would react to the feedback. On the receiving end, it is important to have an open mindset and understand that constructive feedback really is something coming from someone who wants you to do better– no matter what career level you are at. I think the biggest impediment to improvement in most people is that they tend to tie their egos to problems and therefore are reluctant to identify and talk openly about improvement areas without becoming defensive. Mistakes are good – if we learn from them! It’d be wonderful if we are perfect, but to err is human. Just last week I made the mistake of spelling “Principal Developer” as Principle Developer” in a chat room. Someone kindly pointed out in a fun way and asked if the “Principle Developer” would develop principles? Instead of becoming defensive (which would have been a natural instinct), his correction actually helped me made a mental note to be more careful with my spelling. I am grateful that he didn’t want me to look silly in the future. Having the right (open) mindset in receiving constructive feedback is key to self-improvement. While some of us take time to self-reflect, we all have blind spots and we should always be thankful to those for taking the time to point out things we can improve upon so we can continue to grow! (BTW – Ken has an interesting post called Mistakes are just the icing on the cake, check it out if you haven’t read it yet!)
 
Fortunately my manager, peers and directs are very good at both giving and receiving constructive feedback. We have really helped each other grow over time. I truly believe that the ultimate gift to an individual is giving him/her honest and sincere constructive feedback to help with each other’s continued growth – the sky is the limit!

4 Responses to “The ultimate gift to an employee”

  1. I’m not sure mistakes in themselves are good, mistakes are ok, mistakes are expected and as you say learning from mistakes is good.

    I think it is a sign of a employee who feels secure and who’s ego does not depend on their job, that they can actually come and ask you to tell them the things they aren’t good at. I find in performance reviews a lot of people ask me that and I tend to do it myself, all the nice comments are great, but the things I need to work on is the really interesting conversation. It’s important to understand that different people at different times need different amount and frequency of positive feedback/reassurance.

  2. Vivian Wong said

    @ David – thanks for sharing your thoughts! Yes you absolutely right – it is important to realize that “interesting” conversations should happen more frequently beyond the annual or semi-annual performance reviews. Being specific with examples when giving the feedback (positive or negative) is also important in driving the point across.

  3. Vivian – specifics are imperative and often the best time is very soon after you notice a specific incident. For example I often take notes while people in my team are presenting something and in my next 1-1 with them share my thoughts on the good and bad things I saw.

  4. [...] time to time, you should give your manager the ultimate gift as well. As Meg noted in her Managing Your Boss blog, part of your job is to help your boss [...]

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