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Much of managerial guidance focuses on doing the right things. While obviously important and necessary, it is by no means sufficient.

If someone does all the right things but doesn’t do them right, the outcome will be poor.

Hence, it’s important to teach your people the right things to do and how to do them right.

You can teach the former with a manual or a top-down training session. But teaching how to do the right things right is more difficult. It requires making concrete examples and going through some trial-and-feedback.

This is because no matter how good a teacher and communicator you are, there is no way you can guarantee that everyone will understand your instructions and how to reproduce them. There will be doubts or misunderstandings – if not about what they should do next, on how to do it – and the only way to dispel them is to ask the other person to practice and give them feedback about it.

I use the following three-step framework.

    • First, explain what the right thing to do is and why. For example, “while giving feedback, be specific, because generic feedback is more likely to be met with defensiveness and is less actionable.”
    • Second, make three concrete examples. What’s enough, what’s too little, and what’s too much. For example, “your presentation was boring”  would be too generic, “there was too much text” would be specific enough, and “slide 15 had too much text” might be too specific and would anchor the feedback on a particular point instead of a principle.
  • Third, ask the listener to practice right there with you; then, give them immediate feedback. For example, “can you please give me a piece of specific feedback on the way I ran the last team meeting?” And then, “excellent, the feedback you gave me was specific enough to be actionable and not feel personal.” Or, “the feedback you gave me was too generic and didn’t feel actionable; please try again, being more specific.”

But again, in giving you this three-step framework, I only covered the first step and, partially, the second. To cover the third one, I should ask you to practice explaining how to do something right to one of your coworkers, and then I should give your feedback based on that.

If you’re interested, you can book a one-on-one call with me here. Otherwise, the main point remains. Do not only teach your people what the right things to do are; also teach them how to do them right.

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