Leadership Lessons
Encourage Effective Future Behavior

Leaders must establish a feedback culture to maximize innovation, productivity, and performance of the team. Whether positive or negative, a leader must communicate the desired ‘effective future behavior.’ This term is coined by Mark Horstman in his leadership book, The Effective Manager. In this article, you will find tips on giving effective feedback.

A leader needs to do five things to give effective feedback:

    1) Start in the right frame of mind
    2) Ask
    3) State the behavior
    4) State the behavior impact
    5) Encourage effective future behavior.
Here are a few tips to help you create a feedback culture with your team.

1) Start in the right frame of mind.
When a leader is discerning the desired effective future behavior, several questions may help keep that feedback in proper perspective:

  • Do I merely want to communicate a teachable moment or does action need to be taken?
    • Am I more concerned with getting this off my chest or do I have my employee's professional development in mind?
  • Do I desire to give this feedback because I want to protect the organizational culture, prevent future mistakes, or expand my employee's perspective?
    • How will the employee best receive this information?
  • What will the employee do with the feedback I give?
    • Can my feedback wait until a conducive time and place to engage in a conversation?
  • Is my reaction to this moment - in its immediacy and urgency to correct or counsel - equal to my reaction when my employees experience success?
  • It may be helpful for a leader to gain more information on the situation. However, before jumping into inquisition ask yourself, “What will I actually do with the information I seek?”
    • Will it change the circumstances about to take place or can I hold off for a more appropriate time?
  • Finally, the question that should underline all pursuits is, “What will inspire my employee to take calculated risks in the future?”

2) Ask – “May I give you some feedback?”
If you do not have a feedback culture, Horstman suggests starting with only positive feedback for the first six months. This way people are not holding their breath when they hear the words, “May I give you some feedback?” Asking is important because the ultimate goal of feedback is effective future behavior. If the person is not able to receive your feedback at this time, then allow the opportunity to suggest an appropriate time. If there is never an appropriate time, you will have to escalate the situation, similar to the principles outlined by Jesus in Mathew 18:15-20.

3) State the Behavior
One technique to help leaders navigate a crucial conversation is utilizing ‘ST’ from the STAR format:

    Situation: Describe the Situation.
    Task: Explain the original task or expectation.

Keep this part of the conversation simple. The major emphasis of your dialogue will be centered on the impact of the behavior and the desired effective future behavior.

4) State the Behavior Impact
Utilize the remainder for the STAR format, “A” for Action and “R” for Result, state the impact of the employee’s behavior.

    Action: Paraphrase the employee's action; stick with facts and observations.
    Result: Then point out the results of their actions.
Preferably, this is a dialogue where you can allow the employee to clear up any misperceptions.

After there is mutual understanding, illustrate the desired effective future behavior. Ask yourself, “As a result of this conversation, what do I want them to walk away with?” This is the most important part and is something you want to have clear going into the conversation.

5) Encourage Effective Future Behavior
As you transition to delivering feedback, make it known, "I'd like to provide some feedback on…" or "Let me summarize what we've discussed so far…" At this point, there should be a mutual understanding of the situation, task, action, and result. Now, utilize the STAR-AR method to deliver objective, short, and easy-to-understand feedback. The second “AR” stands for alternative action and alternative result. After you have established what it is you really want, communicate the alternative action that will incite an alternative result based on the changes in behavior. Even better, enlist the employee to become a think-partner with you by asking them to develop their own ideas of alternative actions that will lead to alternative results.

Creating a feedback culture is vital to the success of your team. Feedback should be 360 degrees: employee-employee, employee-supervisor, and supervisor-employee. This article is focused primarily on feedback delivery, not necessarily the dialogue that needs to take place to achieve mutual respect and mutual purpose. I have addressed that portion in other articles; however, seeking the employee’s perspective on the event after they have had a moment to process will help you formulate your thoughts towards what it is you really want. The more the employee feels listened to, heard, and taken seriously, the better they will be able to receive the feedback you have to offer.

In an environment that makes sense for all parties, utilize the five steps for giving feedback:

    1) Start in the right frame of mind
    2) Ask
    3) State the behavior
    4) State the behavior impact
    5) Encourage effective future behavior

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