Recently, I had to step into a role that I vaguely understood. In my twenties and early thirties, I used to get all worked up about these kinds of situations. Now, I’ve come to trust the skills, gifts and work ethic to guide the way. And Google, of course.
My role was to serve as the meeting facilitator and minutes recorder for a board that I serve on. While I’ve done this for other board meetings, I was sitting amongst some established businessmen whom had more board experience than I had in years of life. I took this as a personal challenge to facilitate the best meeting possible, while delivering top notch minutes. Now if I only knew what that meant.
After a good three hour meeting and a couple of days of editing, I delivered a five page, single space document of minutes to the board for review. Honestly, I didn’t expect much feedback, if any at all, but naturally I was curious on if I had hit the mark.
For the most part, I got a few acknowledgements, but one particularly really caught my attention…
I thought you did a really nice job of facilitating our discussions, asking appropriate questions, and clarifying key points. Your meeting summary is specific and comprehensive. I always enjoy our time together and appreciate the opportunity to work and serve with you.
For a moment, I felt like a million bucks. I couldn’t quite grasp why I felt so good until I put some thought into why this response stood above the rest. Here’s what I discovered about giving great feedback:
Three keys to giving great feedback
- Be specific – What makes this response stand out is that he’s very specific about what he appreciated. He started by delivering the complement and then supporting it with several specific details. Moreover, without him knowing it, he spoke about the things I had been intentional at doing: asking good questions, bringing clarity and delivering clear and comprehensive notes. The result of his specificity was that I felt accomplished and appreciated—all good feelings for anybody.
- Be generous – This is often where I find that people are the most reserved; I know that it can be true for me. Being generous with your compliments and words can be downright hard for people. Some will view it as gratuitous. Others will be very flattered. I know some who will completely withhold their complements simply because they feel that people don’t deserve it. Being generous is a universal act of love that always deposits kindness in the hearts and minds of others. Withholding your generosity towards others is no different than greed: you have the means to give but you reserve it for yourself. Be generous with your words, with your kindness, with your affections. It’s worth the risk of being misunderstood.
- Be quick – If you wait too long to show your appreciation, it can actually have an opposite effect. Take this clip from Curb Your Enthusiasm for example:
If you opted to skip the video, it’s a clip where Larry David and his wife are delivering a wedding gift to the bride and groom 14 months after their wedding. Wedding etiquette states that gifts can be received up to 12 months after the wedding. Thus, the couple rejects the expensive gift. Larry David flips his lid.
Despite your good intentions, delaying your response can have an unintended and unexpected outcome.
Studies show that the best response is an “active constructive response.” This type of response conveys enthusiasm, support, and interest.
While one could argue that acknowledging someone is better than saying nothing at all, what if we looked at it differently?
Next time a friend or family member has a birthday, which response do you think will be more memorable on their Facebook wall?
- Happy birthday (posted on their wall 1-2 days prior to their actual birthday—cleary an effort to mark it off your to-do list)
- Happy birthday (posted on the day of their birthday)
- Happy birthday sis. I love you.
- You’ve always been a fun person to be around. I’ll never forget the time that you and I went on a camping trip up in the mountains for a week. We had so much fun exploring, taking in the mountains, playing in the water and just being together. I know time has separated us now, but I want you to know that those memories represent who you are to me, still, to this day. I miss your laugh, your playfulness and most of all, pinning you down and tickling your neck. Happy birthday sis. I can’t wait until I see you again.
There’s no question which message will stand out, and which message you’d rather receive. The last paragraph took me less than three minutes to write. Three minutes is all it could take to make someones day.
Next time you’re tempted to respond to someone with a quick, half-hearted reply, try taking an extra moment to be specific. Don’t forget to be generous with your words and quick to acknowledge the moment.
<photo credit> vegaseddie </photo credit>