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15 Tips For Offering Tactful Feedback To Your Employees

Constructive criticism is much needed in the business world, but it isn’t always well-received. You might struggle to hear that you’re not succeeding in certain areas—and being the person who has to hand out these comments to others isn’t much easier.

Many business leaders worry about hurting their workers’ feelings or looking like the “bad guy” when giving less-than-stellar employee evaluations. However, doing so is necessary for that individual’s growth and your company’s overall success. Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council explain how to give an employee tactful, constructive feedback without ruffling feathers.

1. Ask Permission First

When giving feedback, it’s best to ask for permission first. If you ask, “May I offer a suggestion here?” the recipient will be much more likely to actually hear what you have to say. That little moment of asking for permission allows the recipient to feel agency and creates a more open mindset when hearing the critique. - Alexandra PhillipsAlexandra Phillips Consulting LLC

2. Focus On What You’re Trying To Achieve

Think about the ultimate outcome you are trying to achieve by sharing the feedback. Articulate what the benefit is to the other person if they take the feedback to heart, and express that you are willing to support them in reaching that outcome. Then the feedback is less about what they did “wrong” and more about finding a solution and potentially working together to make meaningful changes. - Tonya EcholsVigere

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

3. Avoid The Word ‘But’

Many leaders give positive feedback tied to constructive criticism as a softer approach. However, they employ a fatal flaw when doing so: the word “but.” We instinctually negate anything before it as an unauthentic setup to the harshness that follows it. Use the word “and” to be heard and tie the critique to desired behavior or change. - Lisa K McDonaldCareer Polish, Inc.

4. Build Up An ‘Emotional Bank’ First

Leaders should be aware of the importance of building an “emotional bank” with their team members. By giving authentic, positive feedback throughout the year when your employee does well you will have made several “deposits” into their bank, which builds trust and positive regard. When the time comes to give constructive feedback, they are willing to listen and make the changes needed. - Loren MargolisTraining & Leadership Success LLC

5. Focus On Mutually Agreed-Upon Goals

Providing constructive criticism can be transformed into an opportunity to realign behaviors with shared goals for a person’s work. This happens when goals are clearly communicated and agreed upon by a leader and the team. When goals are clear, feedback can become a collaborative conversation about making adjustments to the actions someone is (or is not) taking to accomplish the agreed-upon goals. - TC CooperUpwardAction® LLC

6. Ask For Their Opinion

Focus on a specific behavior. Bridge the gap between where the person is versus where you want the person to be by giving clear advice. Emphasize your belief in their capability of achieving the goal. Stay aware of how you craft your message; invite the person to the conversation by asking powerful questions like, “What is your opinion on this?” - Kasia JamrozConscious Leading Solutions L.L.C.

7. Create A Clear Feedback Process For Everybody

Leaders must not create the impression that feedback is not fair and that critiques are not fairly applied. Create a repeatable pattern, a system and perhaps a feedback form for everyone. This demonstrates and validates a process and creates less anxiety about unfairness. It’s not perfect, but even small companies can maintain a clear feedback process for everyone. Uniformity may seem boring, but it works. - John M. O’ConnorCareer Pro Inc.

8. Frame It As Something They Can Do ‘Even Better’

Ideally, feedback is given in a culture where it’s normal to offer constructive support while noticing when people do good things, too. When giving feedback, allow the other person to consider it without feeling defensive, and allow yourself the appropriate courage to share by offering “one thing you could do even better.” - Jane ViljoenBest Hopes Coaching and Consulting USA/UK

9. Give Feedback In The Moment Whenever Possible

Providing constructive criticism is healthy, but it can feel like a conflict. However, you owe it to your team members to provide in-the-moment, direct, focused and actionable feedback to help them identify where they can improve their performance and contribute more effectively to the team. Practiced frequently, it becomes a comfortable part of your culture. Provide positive feedback in the same way. - Lianne LynePLP Coaching, LLC

10. Remind Them That Feedback Is An Investment In Their Potential

If they know you are investing in them because you see great things, they will see the feedback differently and not as criticism. We tend to focus on the problem when offering feedback. The farthest we get in those conversations is “the fix.” People rarely focus on the potential of a person and what happens when they reach that potential. - Brad FedermanF&H Solutions Group

11. Combine Empathy With Explanation

In order to be constructive, use both empathy and explanation. Instead of just critiquing, it is important to show why the undesired behavior is bad for business and how the desired behavior is both good for the person and the business. You want to be candid and transparent, but remaining empathetic ensures the entire conversation can remain positive. - Donald Hatter

12. Assume Good Intentions

Address the issue directly and work to find a solution together. If you assume the other person has good intentions, it will automatically change your language and attitude. For example, if someone comes in late, instead of saying, “You’re lazy,” turn it into a productive conversation by saying, “I noticed you’ve been coming in late; is there something preventing you from being on time?” - Monisha TotejaDynamic Speaking

13. Use The Sandwich Approach

When you need to “tune up” a team member, start with a compliment first. Let them know they are needed and appreciated, then discuss their shortcoming and what they can do to fix it. Follow up with another compliment, and use future pacing to let them know that they have a place there in the future. This delivers your message with compassion while reinforcing their value to the company. - Mitch RussoMindful Guidance, LLC

14. Get Curious

Ask the employee, “What’s one area of your professional life you’d like to grow or improve in?” Start the conversation here and ask questions around the topic the employee brought up. It could be that this isn’t an area that you had thought of. And if you help them grow in this area, you will have created a foundation for future constructive conversations. They may even ask your thoughts on this. - Frances McIntoshIntentional Coaching LLC

15. Be Respectful And Clear

There is an over-emphasis on “feelings” in the workplace lately, and it has impacted the willingness of leaders to deliver clear and helpful criticism. Leaders need to be prepared to ruffle feathers, and employees need to develop thicker skins. Leaders should, of course, be respectful and clear, but holding back will not serve anyone. The best employees ask for feedback and accept it as a gift. - Warren ZennaZenna Consulting Group

Forbes Coaches Council   |   
15 Ways Stay-At-Home Parents Can Prepare To Go Back To Work

Every day, around the world and across industries, professionals put their careers on hold to start a family. As the children grow up, many stay-at-home parents look forward to the day they can re-enter the workforce. However, after years away, not only has the business world likely shifted, but their experience and skills may be a bit stale.

How can stay-at-home parents prepare themselves for the best possible re-entry into the workforce? We asked entrepreneurs from Forbes Coaches Council to share their top tips for professionals getting ready to go back to work. Their answers are below.

1. Polish Your Skills

Once you have identified your new career target, identify any necessary skill and knowledge gaps. To address these, take a course via Lynda or Udemy, register for a certificate program and/or join a professional association. Even better, join two: one with people who “do what you do” (for example, SHRM for human resources professionals) and one with members who “need what you do” (for example, industry associations). - Laura M. LabovichThe Career Strategy Group

2. Arm Yourself

Connect with former colleagues and industry members to get a better understanding of the current standards of experience, technology and methodology. Armed with this information, you can make strategic decisions about additional steps you want to take regarding education, crafting your resume/professional brand and potentially taking on a few freelance opportunities to re-engage professionally. - Tonya EcholsVigere

3. Do Volunteer Work

Often underappreciated, volunteer work can assist a stay-at-home parent in keeping his or her skills sharp. Highlight any work that you have done and what skills you used, such as organization, leadership, planning, collaboration, project management, finance, etc. Be as active as possible in your professional organizations to keep your network warm and remain relevant in your target career. - Erin UrbanUPPSolutions, LLC

4. Get Social To Be Strategic

Engage fully with all of your social media platforms. Most enterprise software is moving in the direction of mimicking social media models. Research the trends in your employer’s industry and then take courses, watch videos and build your competency in addressing the current challenges facing your employer. Trust in your soft skills, as they are timeless, and your mojo will return quickly. - Carl Gould7 Stage Advisors

5. Use LinkedIn For A Good First Impression

Today, people often meet you online before they meet you in person. In the professional world, it is common to learn about someone on LinkedIn before a live conversation or a resume review. Creating or updating a professional LinkedIn page with an up-to-date headshot and summary section that highlights your value proposition will establish a professional impression right away. - Molly WalshStandout Consulting

6. Conduct A Listening Tour And Create A Development Plan

When you are trying to re-enter the workforce or pivoting to a new role, I suggest conducting a listening tour. Make a list of 10 to 15 leaders in the role and get on calls with them to understand the nuances of their role in the current market conditions. Start with your previous colleagues or network and ask for referrals, then create a development plan for yourself to build those new skills.  - Leanne WongTrue Talent Advisory

7. Do Your Research

The decision to go back to work is a significant one.  It includes time weighing pros and cons. During this period, a parent should not only think about the impact of going back to work on their children and family members, but engage in research on the industry they are returning to, trends in work environments (such as teleworking) and the ways industry can assist in the process. - David J. SmithDavid Smith Career Coaching

8. Learn To Navigate The Internet

In the last decade, technological advancement has drastically changed the way things work in every industry. You need to be able to navigate the world of the internet and the possibilities it offers for revenue generation. The old-school way of doing business has been rendered outdated. You need to master the skill of reaching out to your target audience online, as a first step. The rest will follow. - Anjali ChughCosmique Global Inc.

9. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

This worked for me. I had to convey four years as a stay-at-home mom into words potential employers could relate to. Being the household manager meant experience with budgeting, finances, strategic planning, execution, market research, interpersonal skills, using technology, working with subs and more. Have a friend help with this. It’s hard for most of us to capture all we bring to an employer. - Pamela ScottMentor Loft

10. Contract In Your Highest Talent First

When re-entering a workforce that has most likely changed since you took leave, try a contracted position first, especially a short-term one. You’ll have the opportunity to create an impact, get a fresh reference and reacquaint yourself with everything from technological shifts to ways of communicating and collaborating. Take another, and continue until you feel prepared to apply for and win full-time positions. - John HittlerEvoking Genius

11. Keep Networking

Continue to research and understand who the key players are in your industry. Take the time to set up a few meetings with people who you would want to work with in the future. What will never change in the business world is that it is not what you know, but who you know. Establishing and maintaining warm relationships now could help you greatly in the future job search. - Angela MulliganAngela Mulligan Consulting and Coaching

12. Build Up Clarity And Confidence

The common problems my stay-at-home-parent clients face are lack of clarity about their career path and lost confidence. Clarity comes from knowing who you are, who you aspire to be and what the market needs. Taking tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or StrengthsFinder, doing deep reflection, conducting research, and talking to people help. Confidence comes from building a strong, unique case about yourself that sells. - Amy NguyenHappiness Infinity LLC

13. Focus On Your Strengths And Experiences

Regardless of how long you have been out of work, you have not been inactive. Your experiences shape you, your habit structures and skill set. Whether you have volunteered, helped out at your child’s school, joined a board, run charity events or taken care of an ailing parent, you have something to offer. Identify what skills and achievements transfer to the workplace and highlight them. - Brad FedermanF&H Solutions Group

14. Take Stand-Up Or Improv Classes

The biggest pitfall of coming back to work after a long leave is your decreased confidence. The ability to be assertive in high-stakes situations, such as important meetings, is like a muscle—it can get weaker with lack of practice. During my sabbatical, I took a stand-up course and went to open-mic nights. It was the scariest thing I could think of. When I came back to work, I was more confident than ever. - Caterina KostoulaThe Leaderpath

15. Don’t Apologize

When I re-entered the workforce after taking a year to stay home, it was brutal. I found myself apologizing and fumbling through interviews when I felt judged by employers. I began to stop apologizing and started showing how my time off made me a valuable asset and an eager candidate. I didn’t avoid the question—I charged into it and ended up with a role that was perfect. - Maresa FriedmanExecutive Cat Herder

Forbes Coaches Council   |   
Age Diversity Efforts Ease Tension, Find Pluses of a Multigenerational Workforce

A tour through a typical workplace is likely to show employees fresh out of school working alongside workers their parents’ age or older. Researchers have long taken note of the wave of Millennial workers—and lately the even younger Gen Z workers—finding their way in the world of work long populated by Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and even those choosing to work well past a common retirement age.

Researchers also have noted differences and tension between the age groups. Tension often takes the form of older workers worried about being pushed aside and younger workers feeling unappreciated despite their education and skills. Although the multigenerational workforce has always existed, it’s getting more noticeable as people in their 70s and beyond choose to stay employed and the Gen Zs, which the Pew Research Center defines as those born after 1997, begin to enter the workforce.

New research published by Dell Technologies takes a look at what employers need to consider as they continue to mix employees of all ages. Some 12,000 high school and college students from around the world were surveyed from August to September 2018 to find out their views on technology and careers. A few of the key findings included in a summary of the research show that Gen Zs:

  • Want to work with cutting-edge technology and share their knowledge;
  • Are confident of their tech skills but not sure of their workforce readiness; and
  • Are eager for human interaction.

Meaning for HR

When workers of different ages are thought of as being significantly different from one another, tension can prevent the different generations from learning from one another. But employers can reap the benefits of an age-diverse workforce if they develop an attitude that goes beyond age stereotypes.

Brad Federman, Chief Operating Officer of HR consultancy F&H Solutions Group, says it’s important to put research such as the Dell report into context.

“Generational differences studies are based on broad groups so the findings are relevant to broad groups, not to small groups and individuals,” Federman says. “What that means is that using the research for a broad-brush approach, such as marketing and building a brand across a large population, makes sense. Applying the research at an individual or small-group level may actually cause damage because at some point we are making assumptions about individuals; we are stereotyping.”

Federman says little research exists demonstrating any real difference in workplace attitudes across generations, and studies often contradict themselves because of differences in research methodologies. He says HR professionals need to focus on building relationships, rather than differences between age groups.

“Generational tension, meaning lacking respect for someone who is of a different generation, typically occurs because we have trained people to size others up based on perceived differences without even getting to know them,” Federman says. “Everyday people from different generations work together without incident.”

Federman says different generations actually have a great deal in common. “They relate to change, teamwork, why they stay or leave an organization, employee engagement, and more in the same or similar manner.”

Look for the Best, Regardless of Age

Federman says organizations need to retain and train the best employees, no matter the age. “Older workers are our historians,” he says. “They have a great deal of knowledge to share. Many older workers are fantastic employees that can mentor others in the organization.” Also, mentoring doesn’t have to go just one way. Often younger employees can help older employees master new innovations and technologies.

Arlene Donovan, an Executive Coach and Workforce Development Professional at Turning Point Coaching, agrees that older and younger employees can bring out the best in each other. While it’s great to have the insights of young workers fresh out of college, an organization also benefits from the experience older workers bring. She cites the example of a 66-year-old account executive she knows who has “a Rolodex that would make the best of the best weep.” He’s active (he runs 12 miles a day), healthy, and eager to keep contributing.

Donovan says employers need to look at the gifts and talents individuals bring to the organization and select the best candidate, regardless of age. And older workers have a lot to offer. For example, they often stick with an employer 5 or even 10 years, and they’re also not always chasing the next title or salary increase.

Donovan stresses that she doesn’t want to stereotype workers based on age, but often, it is the older workers who are “rich with knowledge” but still overlooked because of age.

Tips for Employers

Donovan has suggestions to help employers ensure they are getting the most from their employees, regardless of age:

  • Make sure job advertisements don’t discourage senior talent by using words and phrases that signal a bias in favor of younger employees.
  • Have younger employees shadow older workers so that the younger employees can learn strategies and techniques from the more experienced workers.
  • Cross-train employees. Having each person sit for 2 months in the seat of another worker will result in each worker gaining a greater appreciation for coworkers and make for a stronger team.
  • Bring in an executive, career, or life coach for employees to help them solve problems they experience in the workplace. Donovan says a neutral coach may help employees work out issues better than the services available in most employee assistance programs.
  • Make employee training and development go beyond the typical sexual harassment and other employment law sessions. Surveying employees about training that is of interest to them and offering it frequently can help both young and old succeed.
HR Daily Advisor   |   


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