The no.1 habit of truly effective managers

Most managers miss a key opportunity to boost their management style and help their team rise above average. It may surprise you that the no.1 habit of truly effective managers is giving great feedback – perhaps because you hate giving feedback?


Great feedback takes a breakdown in performance and turns it into a wonderful learning opportunity, giving managers the opportunity to turn their teams around from mediocre to amazing.


The hesitation most managers feel about giving feedback often comes from fear – too many of us have experienced bad feedback. We know its effects – disengagement, distrust and poor team results.


On the other hand, great, constructive, useful feedback can change behaviour in a positive direction.


Did you know that this kind of feedback is increasingly sought-after by today’s workforce?


Avril Henry, author of Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders Today has said “Gen X and Gen Y want regular feedback and Gen Y wants it daily. They don’t want an essay, just three dot points.


Great feedback increases engagement, because the information you provide is empowering.


Giving great feedback does not have only ‘soft’ benefits. It also translates to the bottom line. A single point increase in management ability ­ measured by 18 characteristics ­ is associated with an increase in output equivalent to a 56% increase in the labour force or a 44% increase in invested capital. These measurable changes are how we know that managers are truly effective.


So how can you get into the habit of giving feedback that creates a positive learning experience?


Feedback usually goes wrong because it is too general, it is too late or it is over-personalised. If you use this feedback method, you’ll avoid many mistakes. It’s the same method being used widely now across the Australian Defence Forces.: 


Situation – Describe the situation. Where were you? What did you observe? When did this happen?


Behaviour – Describe the behaviour. What specifically did you observe the person do or say?


Effect – Describe the effect. What was the effect of that behaviour?


Future – Clarify your expectations. What would you like them to do instead, in future?


Personally I have used this method for years and found it highly effective.


People find it fair, useful and empowering.


It is fair because you refer to objective circumstances and situations that they also have a clear memory of.


It is useful, because it makes the link between the behaviour and the effect or consequence – this provides them with the learning opportunity.


It is empowering, because you don’t stay stuck in the past but you provide a specific path to help the person improve – you clarify what they can do in the future.


This is a fantastic feedback method that will make a significant difference to the productivity and engagement in your team.


However it assumes a ‘command and control’ or an autocratic management style. What if your management style is collaborative?


My personal approach is collaborative, since I come from a background of coaching adult learners. For years I have been using a ‘tweak’ on Avril Henry’s approach that I find creates an even more highly engaged team. Rather than dictating terms, I invite my team member to a process of collaborative problem solving.


This is what I recommend to keep engagement high:


Context ­ Set up the conversation with something along the lines that you have a situation you need to improve together, to do with ‘x’ – ‘x’ is something in the team’s bigger context around values, outcomes or direction.


Situation ­ Describe the situation. Where were you? What did you observe? When did this happen?


Behaviour ­ Describe the behaviour. What specifically did you observe the person do or say?


Check ­ Check with the person what they recall about the situation and their behaviour. Use this as an opportunity to genuinely uncover their perspective ­ remember there are always two sides to a story.


Effect ­ Describe the effect. What was the effect of that behaviour, as you observed it?


Clarification ­ Ask the person for their reflections or observations at this point. Use this as a genuine opportunity to understand their point of view and to discover what you may have missed.


Future ­ Invitation to problem solve. Clarify what you see as the current issue or problem that needs to be solved and invite them to suggest how this could be improved in future.


This process is iterative. Rather than assuming that the conversation will end exactly as you planned, you collaborate together to arrive at a unique outcome that considers the interests of your team member.


I guarantee you’ll find this rewarding. By collaborating rather than dictating you’ll find your team member more highly aware of the values, outcomes and direction of your work and more highly engaged in delivering on those expectations. You’ll become a truly effective manager.


Which approach best suits your management style? How will you give great feedback to one of your team members today?