you can't fix what you don't knowThe Importance of Specific Feedback

Spring is the time to get busy. We’re fixing up the gardens, doing our spring cleaning, repairing that fence that took a hit from the snowplow, etc. It’s easy to see what needs to be done around the house and yard once the snow melts and the days are longer.

What’s not always easy to see are the elements of our presence that need attention, and as I’ve said for years, you can’t fix what you don’t know. Even after teaching hundreds of presence classes and coaching thousands of people, I’m still surprised (but not shocked) to hear bewildered leaders say, “I never knew I did that” or “I have no idea how to address that” when given feedback about their presence.

Why my surprise? Because I thought today’s managers were getting more training and becoming more skilled at delivering SMART feedback. You know, Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely. But when it comes to professional presence, managers lacking a clear understanding of the building blocks of presence as well as the targeted vocabulary to deliver presence feedback simply fall short.

feedbackThe biggest challenges are “Specific” and “Actionable.” Thus, the person getting the feedback doesn’t know specifically what’s wrong, and they don’t know how to modify their behaviors and what actions to take in order to fix it. They also aren’t sure why they ought to fix it. What’s the impact of the unwanted behavior? Is it affecting their career trajectory? Their reputation? Interactions with others?

And consider this: Imagine you are a VP and your direct report is a very busy, successful executive-to-be. You are both extremely busy, pulled in a hundred directions. If your feedback to him or her is incomplete, there isn’t much bandwidth to “figure it out” is there? Without knowing what to do, that piece of feedback goes on the “later list” leading to, perhaps, another discussion starting with “I told you that you gotta fix this!” Hundreds of leaders have shared with us that the #1 perceived barrier to enhancing presence is time to focus on oneself.

Managers, you know this, too: millennials are super conscious of managing their careers, but a little sensitive when it comes to criticism. They’ll typically push back on presence feedback, believing it’s not a valid leadership attribute nor as important as technical skill. SMART feedback is especially important in order to enlighten and develop them.

What you can do:

* Managers: Provide crisp, specific feedback using observations of the behavior that must change. See pages 143-147 and 253-254 in my book for targeted examples and vocabulary to describe both the unhelpful behavior and the desired behavior.

* Recipients: When you get presence feedback, if you don’t know exactly what to do immediately following the conversation, keep talking until you fully understand. If you fail to see the importance, ask about impact.

It’s not that often that I refer to my book in an article, but I want you to know these tools are available to you. They’ll help you increase your own knowledge so you can give AND receive helpful feedback on presence. Everything in my book is behavior based, meaning it can be practiced and learned.

You can fix what you do know!