It is challenging to give constructive criticism to a remote employee; yet, there are a few ways to make it easier. One way is to try to have the conversation over video or zoom. That way you can pick up on body language and facial expressions. You might be able to figure out from the facial expressions if they are depressed or feeling overwhelmed. Pay attention to what you see and gauge your feedback appropriately. I also recommend while working remotely you have more check-ins with your team. A short chat can go a long way and help someone feel supported. Furthermore ask more open ended questions such as how you are doing before launching into your feedback.
As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Berger.
Lynn Berger is a Career Counselor and Coach specializing in helping people make the most of their lives and feel fulfilled. In her position, she counsels people on how to effectively transition to jobs and/or careers, balance their roles and responsibilities and understand the choices before them. As an executive coach Lynn works with individuals to assist them in gaining confidence to give honest feedback.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Like many things in life, my career progression was a process that evolved based upon my interests and experiences. After college, I worked in business and then came to realize that I wanted to work more directly with people and their relationship with work. I received a Masters’s degree in Organizational Psychology and worked in Human Resources and Consulting and found that more satisfying; yet, I then realized I wanted to work one on one with individuals and received a Masters’s degree in Psychological Counseling.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Career Counselor and National Certified Counselor I bring a broad perspective to my work. I pride myself on the integration of dealing with the practical and psychological challenges.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
After working as a career counselor for several years the field of coaching became more popular and it was actually a client who said to me you are a “natural coach”. Since I was very interested in the field of coaching I enrolled in coach university and became certified as a coach. I now work as a Career Counselor and Coach.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout? To allow your employees to thrive and avoid burnout be approachable and make it easy for them to ask for help. Social support is one of the greatest stress reducers. If you recognize burn-out give them permission to re-charge when they need to. If possible, redesign their current duties and projects.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Effective leadership allows individuals to maximize their potential and ease their concerns. An effective leader provides opportunities for individuals to shine and appreciate their special gifts and qualities. One individual In particular I coached and mentored realized their interest and ability to work with others and became an executive coach. When you provide opportunities for individuals to understand their potential they flourish.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
To release and relieve stress I recommended that everyone find a “grounding activity” to anchor themselves and get them through the day. For some it is cooking, exercising, dancing, doing art activities, listening to podcasts, taking a walk, meditation, etc. For me it is walking in nature. If you are in an area with a park or area to walk-in it is relatively easy to do. It has been documented that walking in nature can increase happiness since you release endorphins in your brain that elevate your mood and make you feel better.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?
As an executive coach, I work with individuals to assist them in gaining confidence to give honest feedback. Learning to be an effective communicator is key to one’s success as well as the people they work with.
This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?
Being able to give honest and direct feedback is essential to establish trust and credibility. Everyone appreciates someone that is truthful. It can be tough to hear at times; however, in order to improve one needs to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.
It is challenging to give constructive criticism to a remote employee; yet, there are a few ways to make it easier. One way is to try to have a conversation over video or zoom. That way you can pick up on body language and facial expressions. You might be able to figure out the facial expressions if they are depressed or feeling overwhelmed. Pay attention to what you see and gauge your feedback appropriately. I also recommend while working remotely you have more check-ins with your team. A short chat can go a long way and help someone feel supported. Furthermore, ask more open-ended questions such as how you are doing before launching into your feedback.
Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email?
If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh? Giving constructive feedback over email is tricky since you do not know when someone will open it and what else is going on when they read the email. Try to time the email so it is received during a workday rather than first thing in the morning or late at night. Begin the email with some sort of introductory line rather than abruptly stating your message. After delivering the feedback thank them for taking what you mentioned into consideration. Lastly, let them know they can follow-up with questions.
In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?
The best time to give feedback or a critique is soon after the incident; yet, not immediately following it. It is better to respond to the situation rather than react to it. By that, I mean taking a few minutes to collect your thoughts and think about what you want to say and how you want to communicate your feedback. It will probably be heard better than reacting in a rash manner.
How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?
A great boss is someone who is approachable, a great listener and easy to speak with. They are your greatest supporter and are in your corner cheering you on. Once I had a boss and I asked for a raise and he said he could not give it to me but praised me for the courage to ask.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would be great if we could have scheduled “moments of truth” with others to elicit honest and constructive feedback. Depending upon the nature of the relationship this could take many forms. For some it would be more frequent, others occasionally. The goal is to be constructive to allow growth and development.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“To thine own self be true.”. As a career counselor and coach, I want for everyone to maximize their potential by finding work that is compatible with their interests, skills, values and personality style.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.