A few years ago, I was working on a project and one of my team members created an awesome PowerPoint presentation that exceeded my expectations. It was well organized, concise and it utilized graphics that simplified complex concepts that were being discussed. In my excitement, I said "Great job; this is perfect!"
The feedback was genuine, positive and…totally useless.
A few weeks later he submitted slides for a separate project and I recommended significant changes. It was disorganized, too long and had unnecessary graphics, which detracted from the overall message we were trying to convey.
After sharing my input he seemed both hurt and confused by my disapproval of the slides.
He informed me he didn’t understand why I flipped from the last project. Since I told him how much I liked his last presentation, he used the exact same PowerPoint template for the new presentation and didn’t understand why I didn’t like it this time.
It was at that moment I realized the importance of being specific when delivering feedback. Whether feedback is positive or negative, leaders must remember to explain exactly what we like or dislike about each assignment.
I could have and in hindsight, should have said, "You did a great job on this presentation. The way you organized the slides really helped communicate the message in a way that makes sense to our audience. We have a short window of time to deliver this presentation, so the graphics you created will help our audience quickly understand the concepts we are presenting. Thanks again, I really appreciate the thought you put into developing and organizing these slides."
Delivering this type of detailed feedback takes an extra minute or two, but it pales in comparison to the amount of time we spent reworking the slides for the second presentation.
The error was not his fault. It was mine. I failed to effectively communicate which elements made his first presentation "great" in my opinion. He tried to replicate his previous success by using the same design template, even though the template had little to do with why I loved the original project.
As you develop others on your team, remember to provide effective feedback that helps them understand what they did well, what could be improved, how their roles impact the success of the organization and/or that particular project. This will help them better understand which behaviors and strategies should be repeated in the future.
Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.
— Ryan W. Hirsch
Operations Manager, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)