Ever find yourself witnessing a glaring mistake by one of your team members, and thinking this could be costly? Perhaps you’ve heard about the importance of giving feedback in a timely manner. 

You know this behavior needs to be corrected, and quickly. But how? 

Just after completing a challenging run with my niece, Ellei, we headed over to Nectar, our favorite restaurant and juice bar in Lewes, Delaware. Looking forward to a healthy meal, we stepped up to the hostess stand and asked to be seated. 

“How many in your party?” she asked us.

“Three,” I said, “My wife will be joining us in a few minutes.”

Just then the owner, Lisa, slid into our conversation with a cup of lemonade in her hand and said, “I don’t have a ticket for this drink. Who does it belong to?” 

“Oh, that’s mine,” the hostess said, seemingly overwhelmed. 

(Side note: The place was the busiest I had seen in since the pandemic. And, it was recently under new ownership.) 

With an angry pitch in her voice and irritation palpable from across the counter, the owner snapped at our hostess… “You don’t make personal orders when it’s this busy!

The humiliation and embarrassment were impossible to escape, and I found myself apologizing quietly to our hostess… 

I’m so sorry she said that to you in front of us! 

I felt terrible for her, and quickly lost interest in eating there. 

“Let’s go find a different place to eat,” I said to Ellei, who had already imagined the deliciousness of the meal she planned to order. 

Ultimately, we did wind up eating there, but not without some discomfort. Imagining what it felt like to be humiliated, my heart hurt for that hostess. Imagining what it must feel like to buy a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic, I also felt for the owner. 

But—is there another way to get your brand-new team up-to-speed quickly, and on the fly? Is there a way to minimize time between a mistake and correction in a way that’s empowering? 

Yes, and Yes! 

Here are the three sure-fire ways to ensure that your in-the-moment feedback nets you (and your team member) a positive result: 

  1. Own it. If you put a team member into the role with inadequate training, acknowledge your mistake, and then help them get the training/support they need to succeed.
  2. Privatize it. If you’re correcting behavior, do so in private. Even if the person you’re giving feedback to is perceivably thick-skinned, your customers (or other team members) might not be. Criticizing, especially in public, decreases trust, engagement, and productivity.
  3. Apologize for it. We all make mistakes in work, and in leadership. If you criticize a team member in front of others, apologize immediately. “Oops… I’m really overwhelmed. You don’t have the training you need yet and I snapped at you. Sorry.” Apologizing strengthens trust and loyalty.

Feedback is the only way to get better results. And yet, when delivered wrong, feedback can do more harm than good. Delivery matters. And so does humility.  

Here’s to your greatness,
Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been solving people problems and empowering leaders for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://www.MistiBurmeister.com