Can you tell someone that they smell?


Can you tell someone that they smell? - 2020 - Wattsnext Group

Feedback – it is the greatest gift and the greatest nemesis in our business communications!

If you have a team of people, feedback is a must to ensure the individuals ongoing development but also to support a healthy culture in the workplace, yet it is a skill many leaders, even very experienced leaders, do not possess.

But it can be so easy!

When looking for fun ways to share the importance of feedback in a training session with a team of middle managers, I came across Shari Harley, a hilarious speaker out of the US who spoke through how to give feedback.  In 2 minutes you can honestly tell someone the most critical of feedback, including telling someone they smell (badly)!!

How do you do this?  You follow these easy steps:

  1. Empathize so both the feedback provider and the recipient feel as comfortable as possible.
  2. Describe the observed behavior so the recipient can picture a specific, recent example of what you’re referring to. The more specific you are, the less defensive they will be, and the more likely they will be to hear you and take corrective action.
  3. Sharing the impact or result describes the consequences of the behavior. It’s what happened as a result of the person’s actions.
  4. Having some dialogue gives both people a chance to speak and ensures that the conversation is not one-sided. Good feedback conversations are dialogues during which the recipient can ask questions, share his point of view, and explore next steps.
  5. Make a suggestion or request so the recipient has another way to approach the situation or task in the future. Most feedback conversations tell the person what they did wrong and the impact of the behavior; only rarely do they offer an alternative. Give people the benefit of the doubt. If people knew a better way to do something, they would do it another way.
  6. Building an agreement on next steps ensures there is a plan for what the person will do going forward. Too many feedback conversations do not result in behavior change. Agreeing on next steps creates accountability.
  7. Say “Thank you” to create closure and to express appreciation for the recipient’s willingness to have a difficult conversation.

The important thing about feedback is that it has to be balanced; this means you have to give positive feedback as well as more critical or developmental feedback.  You also have to consider the intent of the feedback – is it about your team member or is it about you?  If it is about you – forget it!  Feedback has to be about the recipient, not something you do to make yourself feel better.

It also has to be frequent to keep your team members bank account topped up – their emotional bank account! Every critical piece of feedback you give is a withdrawal from the account and will require three (3), yes three positive feedback deposits to equal it out!

So get depositing – you don’t want your team member to leave your business because they are bankrupt – make sure you can tell someone they smell but also that they smell like roses!



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Wattsnext Group is a compilation of ideas and expertise from the entire team, past and present with a few added gems from guest authors from time to time. With this collaborative approach, you'll get a broader perspective and high-level of expertise across the HR landscape


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