Confrontation or Learning Experience? Delivering Feedback Effectively

18933836_sIn a previous Huffington Post article , I talked about why it isn’t good enough simply to say “good job” when you’re giving feedback. While it is important to acknowledge performance that is meeting or exceeding expectations, it is imperative to provide corrective feedback when things aren’t going as you’d like.

What happens when your team isn’t delivering as expected – when your expectations go unmet?

Can we just hope for it to change or go away? Not if we want to meet our business objectives without doing all the work ourselves.

Things don’t just change. If we aren’t telling people what they are specifically doing or not doing that is getting in the way of the results we want, nothing will change.

I know it can be uncomfortable. There are so many reasons why we don’t want to give people feedback- we don’t want to have conflict, we are worried what they will say or think, or we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

Yet if we don’t … our team members (or vendors) can’t stop the behavior that is unproductive (or driving us crazy) and everyone ends up frustrated.

A Framework to Deliver Effective Feedback

A simple yet effective model for delivering corrective or constructve feedback effectively is the SBI framework:

  1. Describe the situation where the behavior was observed.
  2. Describe the behavior– be sure to include observable actions or interactions that are specific and factual.
  3. Describe the impact – the effect the behavior had on others, the work activity or results.

Here’s an example showing the SBI model in action:

Situation: Our project deadline was October 1, and we’ve now exceeded that initial date by two weeks.

Behavior: You haven’t provided us with the regular project updates that we originally agreed upon.

Impact: Regular updates are essential to the long-term success of this project, and our team depends on them. The rest of our project team is frustrated by a lack of timely, consistent updates. This lack of communication has led to other delays and is not conducive to good teamwork.

Remember that every situation will be different, but the primary goal is to describe the situation and behavior clearly, staying focused on the facts. Follow up with the impact the behavior had, and close with a question or two that encourages the person to consider what they might do differently going forward.

Ask the Right Questions

As part of the feedback process, asking the right questions can have a significant impact on the outcome. Follow the guidelines below so you know what to include – and what to avoid.

  1. Plan first. Instead of brazenly jumping into the process without thought, take a step back and plan out what you want to say. As you do this, you’ll be able to outline the questions you’ll ask as you deliver feedback.
  1. Make your questions open-ended. Questions that are open-ended often start with “who”, “what”, “how”, “where”, and “when”. Notice “why” was missing from that list…using “why” in an open-ended question as you’re delivering feedback can make the other person feel like they’re being judged.

For instance, instead of asking “Why did you do that?”, try “What was your objective behind doing that?” instead. This sounds less confrontational and accusatory.

  1. Stick to the facts. Avoid making personal judgments or criticisms. In other words, your goal should be focused on providing feedback about a behavior and the impact it had.

Don’t: “Why do you always rush through things? If you weren’t so hasty, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Do: I know you mentioned you have a lot on your plate right now. What would make it easier for you to focus more of your time on this task/activity?

  1. Change up the perspective. As you’re delivering feedback, use thought-provoking questions to guide the other party to see the situation from a fresh perspective.

For instance, if the other person blames the situation on a disagreement she had with a co-worker, direct your questions to help her consider a new perspective.

Instead of following along with the same line of thinking by saying something like, “I can’t believe she said that!”, try asking questions like “I understand where you’re     coming from. What do you think might have led her to say that?” or “What would need to happen for you and her to improve your relationship?”

  1. Involve the other person in the solution. The most effective feedback is a 2-way conversation. It is not your sole responsibility as the business leader to solve everything. Ask the person you are giving feedback to come up with a solution or alternative way of acting. Questions such as “how could you address this differently in the future?” or “what can you do to resolve this issue?” assist the other person in coming up with solutions that she or he can own and commit to.

Remember, knowing what questions to ask can significantly change the outcome of the feedback experience. Instead of the recipient seeing the feedback as a one-sided ambush, the process can actually represent a dynamic learning experience for both parties.

What tips do you have for delivering corrective feedback effectively?

5 Key Strategies Small Businesses Can Learn From the Corporate World, Part II

Do you want to generate more revenue and manage your business like a pro? In this two-part series, Kim Pisolkar shares five simple yet powerful strategies that today’s small business owners can learn from the corporate world.

Strategy 4: Observation and Measurement

Corporate Strategy | Small Business StrategyIn big business, there are metrics and goals. Revenue, sales, marketing, effectiveness, human capital and technology are all measured and monitored to ensure that deficiencies are quickly spotted and corrected.

It’s important not only to see what’s working, but also to learn from what isn’t working. All businesses should be using observation and measurement tools to understand where they’re at and to measure how well they’re doing. Tools like performance appraisals and SWOT analysis are great for doing this.

These same concepts can be applied in any small business setting. In my Big Breakthrough System, we use the concept of a mini performance appraisal to help business owners maximize their productivity.

Every month my clients look at their goals -what was achieved, what was learned, and what needs to change or happen for the next month. This includes looking at financials (which isn’t always fun for people), looking at revenue projections and corresponding results, and looking at how money and time were invested.

Clients ask questions like “Are we breaking even?” andHow did the time and money we invested translate into results?” When you run your business this way, there won’t be any surprises the next time you’re getting ready for tax season! You’ll know exactly where you stand and what you need to adjust along the way.

Strategy 5: Talent Engagement

Corporate Strategy | Small Business StrategyIn a successful corporation, tasks are clearly defined and the right people with the appropriate talents and skills for specific roles are hired. The CFO in a company doesn’t handle R&D, too. People are not one size fits all.

In contrast, here’s what I see happen in a lot of small businesses: Many business owners make a list of all the work to outsource and then try to hire one person to do all the stuff they don’t like to do, don’t know how to do, or maybe aren’t even wired to do. This is a mistake that leads to a waste of time, money and energy because one person simply cannot handle a myriad of specialized tasks.

Another mistake small business owners make is hiring people who are just like them. It’s natural to want to work with people who are similar to you. However, some tasks that you don’t want to do – accounting, copywriting, etc. – may be best handled by someone who is very different than you. Carefully consider the personality of each person you are giving work to – and find people who genuinely enjoy the things you hate to do.

If you’re a small business owner, resist the urge to make do with what there is in the context of talent engagement. Your VA may not be the best person to do your copywriting and editing – plus do your bookwork, too. Suzy from IT should not be made to handle the marketing in her spare time.

Stop trying to fit the work to the people at hand. Look at tasks objectively, and then go find the best people to tackle them.

Finally, thoughtfully consider and write down your job description as the CEO of your company. This will help you clearly see what you need to be doing on a daily basis so that you can stay focused. For everything else outside your job description, you’ll need to find other people to do those tasks as soon as possible.

For more ideas, tips and tools to help you run your small business like a big business CEO, go to


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5 Key Strategies Small Businesses Can Learn From the Corporate World

Do you want to generate more revenue and manage your business like a pro? In this two-part series, Kim Pisolkar shares five simple yet powerful strategies that today’s small business owners can learn from the corporate world.

Strategy 1: Create Guiding Principles

corporate strategies | Small business successGuiding principles or values outline the culture you want to create in your company. Even if it’s just you running your business, you must create guiding principles. Whether it’s only you or you have an entire team, developing guiding principles is how you’ll show up to achieve your strategic imperatives, which I’ll discuss next.

Your personal values will serve as the foundation as you develop guiding principles. These core values are usually timeless and unchanging. Not sure what your personal values are? Ask yourself who you are and what you stand for. If you have a team, involve them in this process as well.

You’ll use your core values again and again to assist in the decision making process. For instance, if one of your core values is to stand behind the quality of the products you sell, you should have policies and procedures in place for addressing products that do not meet quality expectations and for handling customer quality complaints effectively.

Integrate your guiding principles into everything you do. Zappos, a popular online retainer, is a great example of a real-world company that lives by their core values. Zappos created ten core values to clearly outline what the Zappos Family culture is about. You can see all of their core values by clicking here, but some of the most notable include: deliver WOW through service, embrace and drive change, and pursue growth and learning.

Strategy 2: Strategic Imperatives

Corporate Strategy | Small Business StrategyFocusing on strategic imperatives is a corporate concept that can transform your small business by helping you stay aligned with your vision.

In the corporate world, successful corporations have a main focus. Strategic imperatives might also be called corporate strategies or business imperatives – these are essentially the objectivesthat the organization must achieve. They are staffed and financed, and everyone within the organization is measured against them.

I call strategic imperatives the “critical musts”. These are not merely goals or to-dos – they are the fundamental things that must exist in your business over the course of the year in order to bring you closer to your vision of success. In essence, all goals need to point to a critical must.

For instance, if you have ‘increased visibility’ as a critical must, your goals may include growing your email list to at least 5,000, blogging regularly, or maybe even doing some public speaking. Another example: You want to develop, document and delegate as appropriate, and create systems and infrastructure to make your business run more efficiently. Your goals might include creating standard operating procedures, a client onboarding process, and an interview process.

When I work with clients using my Big Breakthrough System, one of the key things we do is identify their critical musts for the year. This serves as a compass – for every to-do on the list, for every opportunity, and for everything else that comes up, we need to ask: “How is this aligned with my critical musts?” If something comes up that isn’t aligned with a “critical must”, then it’s either a “no for now” or an outright “no”.

This greatly simplifies decision-making and keeps you focused on your plans so that you can achieve your goals and be both profitable and sustainable.

Strategy 3: Strategic Allocation

ID-100114877Another fundamental concept from the corporate world, strategic allocation of resources will yield the best return on investment in alignment with your company’s strategic imperatives.

The resources allocated may be either financial resources or human resources. Perhaps it’s just you running your business. You may have a small team or just a couple of outsourced staff members that you delegate to. Are your time and money being allocated in a way that aligns with your ‘critical musts’ (i.e. your strategic imperatives)? What is the return on investment?

For instance, if you are spending three hours developing content for your blog, what’s the return on investment on your time? Is this the best use of your time? Would it make more sense to spend an hour talking into a microphone and paying someone to transcribe it? Think carefully about your business resources and how they are allocated.

My next article will share two more business strategies used in the corporate world that can be applied to businesses of any size to increase productivity and profits.

For more ideas, tips and tools to help you run your small business like a big business CEO, go to
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