In the moment of OK Boomer and Snowflake Millennial, workplaces have the potential to be more volatile than ever, and there is little end in sight. What happens when that integral part of management comes up, and the generation gap needs to be crossed for feedback? Instead of shying away or doing it “how we’ve always done it” in year-end performance reviews, tap into these four real-time strategies next time you’re giving feedback:
It’s Coaching, Not Feedback
Coaching and feedback are two very different things, and a millennial craves mentorship, guidance and a vested interest in growth. Professional development and skill-building is an integral part of this, so before you even approach the idea of giving feedback, change your mindset!
Good feedback is specific to an instance, action or moment – you can identify what you’re giving feedback on and it’s done promptly. Coaching, on the other hand, is centered on consistent growth. Think of a personal trainer: it’s never a one and done, zero to perfection situation. Think of your feedback less as the effect of a cause (that instance, action or moment) and more focused on consistent growth. It won’t be “fixed” with one meeting or comment, and you’re not working with something that’s broken, you’re working on the future.
Transparency is confidence with the Why
We’re still in the pre-feedback zone! Think about why you want to give this feedback. Is it because you’re annoyed about something? That’s not going to sit well because we get the emotions we put out. On that same note, think of Negativity Bias, the human condition of the negative weighing more than the positive. If you’re tapped into that, it’s going to show, whether you talk about it or not.
Now, if you’ve tapped into the growth mindset of coaching that was previously mentioned, and you frame your Why in a place of growth and development, AND you are transparent with it, you’ve got a winner. Simply saying, “I’m telling you this because I want you to succeed” is incredibly powerful. Transparency in your Why translates to confidence.
Make it a conversation
We’re now digging into the actual moment – and this moment should not be a monologue from you. After you’ve tapped into transparency into your growth-focused and coaching-based mindset around the feedback, it’s time to make this a conversation. If you’re trying to figure out how to do this, think simple first: as a question. You can start with a closed question, one that has a yes or no answer, or jump right into an open question, something like, “What do you think about this?” or “What do you need to be successful?”
That last question passes control to the millennial you’re talking to. You’ve established that you want them to succeed, failure isn’t on your mind (and not in a threatening ultimatum kind of way!) and you want to know what they need, so you’re seeking to help. Be sure you’re actively listening and responding to what they are saying, not just operating from the agenda and script in your head.
At the end of the conversation, make sure you both have things to actively do. Not just “do better” – items that you will both be working on during a set amount of time before you meet again. I like to think in action verbs for this part – if you can’t assign it a verb, you probably won’t get results.
Schedule a sequel
Movies with planned sequels are my favorite. They know that our attention spans are only so long; they are confident that we are “hooked” and will show up again.
That confident buy-in and care with the pre-planned sequel? Go into your coaching conversation just like that, and schedule the follow up before you leave. Decide if you’d like your action items done before the follow-up or if you’d like to reflect on progress, and set the date based on both of your schedules. Plan to run that follow up similarly: focused on growth, transparent conversation with tasks and another meeting in mind.
JEN OLENICZAK BROWN is the founder of The Engaging Educator, which has served more than 50,000 students since its inception in 2012, working with such companies as Viacom, Food Network, The New York Times, Saks Fifth Avenue and CBS. She is also the author of THINK ON YOUR FEET: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Impromptu Communication on the Job (November 8, 2019; McGraw-Hill). Jen has given three TEDx talks and her work has been featured in such publications as Bustle, Fast Company, Forbes, Moneyish and others.