The Performance Review: Don’t shoot the messenger!

If you’ve been following along with this month’s posts, you’ll know we’re talking about delivering feedback and managing performance.

I know not everything goes to plan, and sometimes you might need to deliver honest feedback that may not be well received. You can’t ignore it and you can’t put it off. If you take your leadership responsibility seriously, you need to open that conversation.

Today I want to share with you a powerful tip I learnt from Michael Grinder who is an expert in non-verbal communication. It’s called his 3-point communication model and it’s a way of keeping the focus on the message, not the messenger.

He says, “There are two basic styles in non-verbal communication. Two-point communication is when two people are involved, usually making eye contact. Three-point communication involves 3 entities, usually 2 people and a piece of paper.”

How does it work?

We know that eye contact is powerful. It connects us with the other person when we need to deliver a genuine message. It shares energy between us and enhances our relationship. In effect, the message becomes part of the relationship.

But what happens when the message we need to deliver is not so positive? We don’t want the message to negatively affect the relationship, so maintaining continuous eye contact might not be the best idea…

If you need to deliver difficult feedback, it can help to have a third object to focus on. As an example, a chart or report – something relevant to the conversation. Even a piece of blank paper that you can put between you, and both read as you make notes.

You will find the person you’re talking with will follow your gaze. If you look down to the object, he or she will look down, too. We do this naturally.

What it does is shift the focus from the relationship to the message. It’s less personal than two-point (eye-contact) communication and separates the message from the messenger.

If you have difficult feedback to deliver, try three-point communication and watch the energy shift from emotion to problem solving. It’s a great way to preserve your good relationship, limit the chances of triggering an emotional response and direct focus away from you and to your message.

Once the hardest part of the message has been delivered, make sure you end by returning to eye contact to secure your relationship once again.

Have you used this simple but powerful technique before? I’d love to hear how it worked for you. Please tell me about your experience in the comments below so we can all learn from it.

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