Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
You can help your boss walk the path of servant leadership. Not only that, you can provide this help using nothing but your mind, heart, and vocal chords (or typing fingers).
So few bosses receive feedback from the people they lead. This is understandable, for two reasons. First, because it’s easy to assume that people who have been promoted into leadership positions don’t need regular encouragement from their direct reports. Second, because few people feel comfortable giving feedback to their boss if what they have to say is negative.
The truth? If you offer it effectively, both kinds of feedback – positive and negative – can lift your boss up and help them embrace the practice of servant leadership.
Here is how to give your boss feedback with the spirit of encouraging them to serve:
Feedback is best given as close as possible to “real time.” Don’t wait to offer praise. When you experience your leader practicing the behaviors of servant leadership, say so. Give them that gift, so they can “open” it and enjoy it!
The same is true with constructive feedback. Waiting until long after the teachable moment is past not only makes your feedback less effective, it sends a message that you’ve been holding a grudge about the issue instead of speaking up about it.
That said, if you aren’t feeling ready to offer constructive feedback with patience and love, then wait until you are. Be kind. Your boss is only human, too. Bosses have self-doubts. They have days when they wonder if they’re up to the job. They have moments of despair. Keep these things in mind when offering leaders your thoughts about how they could serve their direct reports (you) better.
Your goal in giving feedback is build up, encourage, and gently redirect toward servant-minded leadership practices. Few people became better servant leaders through being torn down over and over again.
Over-inflating praise devalues it.
Over critiquing makes people defensive.
When giving feedback, dial down your emotions, be honest, and tell your boss the truth. Doing this will deepen trust in your relationship. Your boss will know that they can count on you to be straight with them and also have their back. Trust fuels the motivation to serve.
The more detailed you are when you offer feedback, the more helpful you are. General praise is like empty calories – fun in the moment, but not sustaining. Meanwhile, general criticism gets written off as biased griping.
When you talk to your boss (or send an email) with the intent to give feedback, be as specific and concise as possible. Stick to one situation and drill down on one behavior. Your feedback will have greater impact because it will stick in your boss’s memory!
Everyone has a boss; someone to whom they are ultimately accountable. Within the next three days, I encourage you to give your boss feedback using these four guidelines. I promise you, your investment of time and energy will deliver returns. Your relationship with your boss will become more transparent and trustworthy – both of which promote mutually beneficial service.
In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.