What Seems Simple Does Not Get Done Right

Providing effective feedback is a skill that most managers don’t initially possess and here’s why.

For some reason, it’s assumed when you buy a business or are promoted to manager, the skill of giving feedback just comes as part of the package. Unfortunately, it’s not usually the case.

Providing effective feedback is a skill that few just inherit; it has to be worked on and is usually learnt over time through trial and error.

Most owners/managers tell me that dealing with staff is the toughest thing they do in their business. “My life would be so much easier if I didn’t have staff to worry about”. Well, I’m afraid you also wouldn’t have a business, because most business owners need their staff more than the staff need the owner! Owners/managers can’t operate the business on their own. They need staff and not just any staff, but staff who turn up on time, are motivated, and want to be at work. This is a big ask according to many owners/managers.

Having a title, such as owner or manager, doesn’t mean you can just tell people what to do and it all goes smoothly. People don’t appreciate being ordered around and told what they have done wrong. Yet, at the same time, feedback is critical to keeping staff on track; in fact, staff can need feedback on their performance on a daily basis.

We all learn from our own personal experiences and learning how to give feedback is much the same. We experience how feedback feels by receiving it ourselves during our early working life, and we either adopt the same method if it worked for us, or the opposite if it didn’t.

I was incredibly lucky to have some pretty good managers when I first started out in the work force, a couple weren’t the greatest but I moved around a bit in my earlier days with Shell. Unfortunately none of these good bosses really helped me to learn the skills of how to best manage people – perhaps they didn’t know themselves and just winged it. I didn’t even think to ask either, thinking that when I get to manage people I’ll follow what my good bosses did with me as it worked for me.

When I first managed people as an assistant manager of a large sports store in Sydney, I didn’t have a clue. I just did what I thought was right and managed to get by.

As the saying goes, if I only knew then what I know now, things would have been so much better.

Luckily, the people who worked for me were pretty good, but I did have a manager to back me up. I knew nothing about how to get the best out of my people or what to do if they didn’t perform.

I hear lots of stories from friends and colleagues about horrible bosses, bosses who are arrogant, autocratic, and downright rude. They don’t have respect for staff, and wonder why their staff are always leaving or only performing when the boss is around. We can’t afford to manage people like this; there are just too many other choices for staff, plus it simply doesn’t work anymore.

The way we learn to give feedback is often based on our personality and how we want to come across to our staff. Some owners/managers want to show who’s the boss so their feedback can be quite aggressive, blunt, and to the point; others want to be friends with their staff so their feedback is given in a softer, more indirect way.

Providing effective feedback is a skill that is not generally taught in school so most owners/managers just adopt a way that seems to work for them. My experience shows when feedback is provided effectively it is quick, concise, and achieves the desired result without upsetting anyone.