‘Tis the season for gifting!
And as you might already know, one of the best things you can give your team is the gift of feedback (it’s a cliche for a reason). By outlining the specific steps someone can take to level up, you help them learn and grow—and set themselves up for long-term success.
But there’s an art to giving advice. It can be painful for someone to hear what they need to work on, even if they know you only want what’s best for them. And too often, because we’re afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, we give feedback that is vague, indirect, and ultimately unhelpful.
So this month, make it a point to give feedback that actually feels like a gift. Here are three scientifically-backed steps to help you offer useful, actionable, and encouraging advice.
Make it ultra-specific
Be sure to frame feedback around a team member’s process or the outcome they achieved, and take steps to avoid making assumptions or generalizations about their character. A great rule of thumb is to always offer one tactical thing they could do differently next time. For example, “I’d limit the number of bullet points on your third slide to four,” is a specific observation with a suggestion for what to do next, while “You weren’t a great presenter,” is a vague, unhelpful comment on their character.
Check-in and start a conversation
Feedback is a powerful way to support growth and encourage experimentation. When you notice someone try something new in the course of their everyday work—e.g., learn a new skill or tackle something outside their comfort zone—make sure to check in as soon as you can. Ask how it’s going, and share your own feedback. Try, “What worked well? What are you going to try differently next time?” Focus your efforts on helping them identify next steps or resolve problems themselves, rather than simply providing solutions.
Learn about preferences
The best way to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings is to ask how and when they prefer to receive feedback—people’s answers might vary greatly. For example, engineer Charlie Lopez prefers to get in-person feedback ASAP, while People Scientist Carly Kontra would rather receive constructive criticism in writing so she has time to process it by herself. The lesson is: don’t treat others how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers
Each month, we pick a question from a reader and offer tactical tips on how to handle their work-related issue. (If you’d like advice, let us know by replying to this email!) George wrote in to ask: My job requires me to make a lot of decisions. How can I make sure I’m not being overconfident and recklessly charging ahead?
This month’s answer comes from Haas professor and author Dr. Don Moore, who spoke at our offices a few weeks ago: “Consider ways in which you might be wrong,” he said in an interview with Cori Land, a member of our Partner Experience team. “Seek perspectives that illuminate your views in a different light.” More from Don up on our blog.
What’s happening at Humu:
We hosted our first ever Women @ Humu event! A big thank you to engineer Kat Slump for founding the group, and for emceeing its inaugural Women’s Leadership Breakfast. We gathered together to hear honest, inspiring advice from our very own co-founder Dr. Jessie Wisdom. In her words, “Doing the right thing, and making it a point to support the people around you, always wins in the end.”
It’s been a busy year-end. Humu was highlighted in Visier’s HR Trends 2020 and Markets Gazette, our CEO Laszlo Bock talked to CNBC about why we offer a year of parental leave (six-months paid) and spoke at the Glassdoor Summit about how to find more meaning at work, you can now watch the talk Machine Learning Privacy Lead Aleatha Parker-Wood gave at CAMLIS about the risks and benefits of data collection, new research on sexism and personality co-authored by People Scientist Stefanie Tignor was published in Personality and Individual Differences, People Scientist Tom Skiba wrote about why status updates should NOT be part of your 1:1s in Fast Company, and I (Liz Fosslien) spoke to NPR’s Life Kit about my book No Hard Feelings, which was also chosen as a best book of 2019 by NPR and Fortune Magazine. Phew!
And that’s it for 2019. Have a great holiday season, and see you in January!