How to Structure an Improvement Conversation (9.2)

"The term "feedback" has (be)come an euphemism for criticizing others, as in 'the boss gave me feedback on my presentation.' This use of feedback is not what we mean (...) Avoid describing the criticism you give or receive to others as feedback. Telling someone your opinion does not constitute feedback..."
-- John Sterman, MIT Professor of System Dynamics

When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. That's why an effective performance conversation starts way before you meet your counterpart.

You must come with the right spirit and the right information. You need to remind yourself that the goal is to improve performance and not tell the other what he's doing right or wrong.

Of course, to improve the performance, the relationship and the well-being of both of you, you must convey information about the impact of your counterpart's behavior on the goal and on you. But to maximize the value of this information you need to share it non-judgmentally.

You need to remind yourself further that just as you have reasons, so does your counterpart. Both of you have something to contribute. Thus, you should use "safe" (non-exclusionary) language such as, "I would like...", and not dangerous language such as, "You should..." And you should not only advocate for your view, but also inquire about your counterpart's perspective.

You also need to complement your emotional preparation with a rational argument. If you want to explain to the other person what works well for you and what doesn't work so well in a way they can understand, you have to give them evidence.

People understand when they get facts, when they get reasons, and when they connect the facts and the reasons with the shared goal. That's the logical argument you must prepare in advance.

Of course, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. When you meet the other person, your logic is going to be challenged and complemented by the logic of the other.

In the following video, I explain how to conduct the conversation following a structure called "Plus/Delta".

Should you have any difficulty viewing the video please click here to view on Fred's Slideshare page.

Readers: What do you think of the Plus/Delta structure?

Fred Kofman is Vice President at Linkedin. This post is part 9.2 of Linkedin's Conscious Business Program. To find the introduction and full structure of this program visit Conscious Business Academy. To stay connected and get updates please and join our Conscious Business Friends group. Follow Fred Kofman on LinkedIn here.