In the first of my four blogs about the things you may think are feedback, but actually aren’t, I introduced the idea that we’ve been getting feedback all wrong. I proposed that it’s time to fire up the potential positive power feedback can have. We started with a new and improved definition of feedback:


I then outlined four very specific things you may think are feedback, but actually aren’t:

  1. DON’T rely on simple platitudes. DO provide specific and relevant details.
  2. DON’T try to “fix” someone. DO offer feedback as a helpful tool they can use.
  3. DON’T indulge only in “manager tells.” DO engage in a conversation.
  4. DON’T rely on traditional annual reviews. DO make feedback part of an ongoing relationship and a continuous conversation.

We covered the first of these, simple platitudes, in my prior blog, so now let’s focus on the next issue. Listen up, folks: we’re not here to “fix” people. We’re here to help them.

DON’T try to “fix” someone. DO offer feedback as a helpful tool they can use.

Can you imagine swooping into the office where your hapless employee sits huddled in a chair, then announcing, “Never fear. I’m here to FIX you!” If you try to imagine it, I trust it makes you squirm. Once again, we find ourselves in a place where we have all good intentions and sincerely believe we’re doing what we have been trained to do. We don’t intend to be overbearing, arrogant, or patronizing. But, gosh, when you say it like that (“I’m here to FIX you!”), it sure comes across in an uncomfortable way, doesn’t it?

Let’s start by remembering whose life and career it is in the first place. We each own our own careers. We are entitled to our own goals and aspirations. If these goals and aspirations don’t serve the organization we’re in, that’s fine; we can find another where we fit and add value. We’re not required to subjugate our own goals.

Let’s go back to the feedback definition and pay attention to the words “sole intention of helping.” That person sitting in that chair doesn’t want to be “fixed,” and most likely doesn’t believe they are “broken,” but I’ll bet they’d love some well-intentioned help in the form of tangible information, insights, and advice that they can use to grow and develop in areas they choose. Let’s be real for a moment: could it actually work any other way? If someone doesn’t aspire to grow in some way we’re trying to push them toward, would they ever succeed at it anyhow?

So, if we’re letting go of the “people-fixer” mindset and acknowledging that everyone owns their own career and development, how can we help them? First, we need to have the conversations that enable us to understand their perspective and what their aspirations and goals really are. Then, we need to explore how they would like to be helped and where they really want to grow. Finally, we need to offer up our own observations, insights, and experiences that are relevant to their direction. We must do this in ways that are consistent with the other suggestions I’ve made. Be specific and clear. Engage in frequent conversation.

I think you’ll find that if you abandon the “people-fixer” mindset and focus instead on the question of what you can offer a person that could help them on their way to achieving their own vision for their career, the whole process will become lighter and easier, not to mention far more fulfilling for both of you. After all, it feels good to help!

Stay tuned for my next two blogs that will continue to explore my remaining recommendations.

Are you looking to engage your employees through feedback? Check out Achievers’ white paper, “Empowerment and Trust: The Keys to Employee Engagement.”