overhead view of businessman giving feedback to an employee

I recently spent the day with two groups of mid-managers, helping them become more comfortable with EOS®, improve their leadership and management skills, and create more accountability. Late in the day, while teaching five important disciplines used by great managers, we had some terrific dialog about providing feedback to employees. The group easily understood the importance of giving both positive and constructive feedback to employees, and about the need to do so quickly (within 24 hours). What they were struggling with was the “how.” In other words, how, exactly, do you give someone negative feedback that is CONstructive rather than DEstructive?

I learned the answer to this from a very important spiritual guide during a particularly difficult time in my life: “Tell the truth. Use as few words as possible.”

The Right Way to Tell the Truth

Her point? My job – as a human – is simply to tell the truth to the people I care about most. When we do that, the truth does the work that needs to be done. We don’t need a lot of words. We don’t have to figure out how best to tell the truth, how to say it in a way that won’t hurt someone’s feelings, or how to fix what’s wrong. We just have to say it, in as few words as possible, and then be present to listen, observe, and help if necessary.

That’s also your job as a manager. When you create crystal-clear expectations for your people and they’re falling short, just pull them aside immediately and tell the truth. Help them understand exactly how they’re not consistently exhibiting your Core Values, or don’t GWC (Get, Want or have the Capacity for) their seat. Use three data points to illustrate each issue.

And then quit talking. What happens next will almost always illuminate a clear path forward. Some employees will leave, frustrated and angry. Some will take the feedback to heart and embark on a path to greatness. Longtime managers have probably seen every outcome between those two extremes.

Whatever happens, the proper outcome is reached…as long as you start the journey by telling the truth, using as few words as possible, and being there to help as needed along the way.