A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a group of hospital leaders from around the nation. Throughout the session, we talked about a number of different ways to leverage little moments to make a momentous impact.

During the Q&A, one question after another surfaced along the lines of “how do I address a team member who ________?” As I weighed in, each answer had an eerily similar message related to feedback, specifically micro feedback. My responses were:

  • “Shoot people straight. Great team members can not only handle it but are hungry to know what you think.”
  • “As Brene Brown so powerfully puts it, ‘Clear is Kind.’ “
  • “Be transparent.”
  • “Be direct but kind.”

In reflecting over the days that followed, I began to recognize that I’d overlooked a foundational element within the session and in responding to countless questions.

The only way that feedback is effective is if there’s a clear standard and expectation.

For example:

  •  A healthy human body carries an internal temperature of 98.6 degrees.
  • In basketball, a player with the ball has to dribble the basketball when they walk.
  • Drivers follow posted speeds in school zones.

The same is true in shaping cultures and building teams. The truth is that micro feedback is only helpful IF a clear standard has been established.

Spoken or unspoken, every organization, family, and relationship has standards and expectations. These standards are established in a few different ways:

  • Publishing Mission – “This is why we exist.”
  • Sharing Values – “This is what we value.”
  • Highlighting Behaviors – “This is how we act.”
  • Exposing Strategy – “This is how we win.”

And, of course, there are the organic and formative moments that are woven into the tapestry of every day.

When we provide clarity around what’s expected:

  1. People are set up to succeed. Team members don’t have to guess and wonder what helps and harms the organization. Once they know and understand the mission, vision, values, and expectations, they have the full invitation to “opt-in” or “opt-out.”
  2. Leaders are set up to provide developmental feedback. When attitudes and actions don’t align, there’s a gap. The leader’s goal is to highlight the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

When we don’t have a clear set of expectations, feedback tends to feel far more personal. People walk away with thoughts like, “she just doesn’t like me” or “we’ve just never clicked as he and Thomas do.”

Similar to our internal body temperature of 98.6 being the standard for how we gauge health, we know there is a significant discrepancy when the thermometer reads 101, and we take action.

When the target is kindness or teamwork or bringing our best and seeing someone who’s being unkind or operating independently or not bringing their best, we know there’s a gap to close.

So yes… “clear is kind” and “be direct” are critically important feedback directives. But these are best utilized when they stack on top of a known standard – clear expectations.

Cheers to setting clear expectations for your teams and paving the way for feedback that makes everyone better!

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