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This week, I’m preparing for an online session for about 200 human resources professionals I’ll be presenting in a couple of weeks. When I asked the registrants to tell me their greatest workplace communication challenges, they answered loud and clear. 

Giving feedback can be one of the toughest things to do.

There were other communication challenges, of course, but this one topped the list. I understand completely. Providing constructive feedback can be very tough to do, especially if the recipient is less than open. Yet, it’s something that all of us want to do at some point, whether it’s conducting an employee appraisal, telling your boss he or she is wrong, or letting a colleague know they dropped the ball on a project.

Anyone can provide criticism and pick apart the actions of someone else. What’s really difficult and what sets apart good communicators, is going beyond that.

The key is to provide solutions, not problems.

Imagine if you were offered some IT support, and all this person did was come into your office, look at your computer, and point out all the things wrong with it without giving you any solutions or fixing it. Where would that leave you? With a broken computer and worried sick about all the problems about which, just a moment ago, you were blessedly ignorant. Plus now, you’d be aware that there were issues and you wouldn’t know where to go or what to do to fix them. That doesn’t serve you well. In fact, it only complicates the matter.

I bet you know someone like that, don’t you? This person comes and dumps all over everyone and everything, is first to point out what’s wrong and seldom, if ever, acknowledges anything that is right. You may well be thinking of a certain person in your life or workplace. Maybe it’s a colleague, client, boss or employee. Or maybe it’s a relative or friend in your personal life.

We all know people who are really big on complaining, but not so big on finding ways to improve the situation. It’s easy to shoot down projects and ideas. Anyone can do that. It’s more difficult AND much more valuable to everyone, to present solutions.

Allow me to divert for just a moment and to be clear here: Someone pointing out the limitations of your project or venture is a useful exercise. You actually benefit from people pointing out the pitfalls, the dangers around you, and the traps you could step into. These people in your life and on your teams make you aware of things you might not have known or seen, and now that you do. As a result, you can be on your way to correcting them and avoiding them in future. The difficulty comes when these people stop there, at the problem only. Is that you?

Here’s the key …

Stop complaining, start creating.

When you’re giving feedback, be a problem solver. Present problems WITH solutions. Otherwise, you likely appear negative and that’s a downer for everyone. It doesn’t help you or your team. Offering feedback is wonderful, as long as it’s accompanied with possible solutions to address deficiencies you feel compelled to point out. 

Next time you provide input, let that be your rule: Present problems only when you have a possible solution or, better yet, two or three options. It might not be the final answer but it’s a step in the right direction. You’ll position yourself as a leader, a problem solver, and someone who others appreciate.

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
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Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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