5 Tips for Giving Feedback as a Catholic Manager
“All the words of my mouth are sincere, none of them wily or crooked.”
- Proverbs 8:8
Giving feedback is an often dreaded task, but it’s critical for effective leadership. Not only do your team members need to know how they’re performing, but providing honest, helpful feedback in a kind way can help you build stronger relationships with them. Fortunately, we can use a few lessons from the Church to make giving feedback less painful and more effective. Here are five.
1. Understand Your Intention
Intention matters. Are you giving feedback because you’re angry, or are you giving feedback because you need to correct or support an employee? Your intention will carry through in your messaging and make a huge difference in how the employee responds.
As the Catechism says, “Intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action,” (1752), and “an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving)” (1753). Similarly, if your feedback results in improved performance, but it was inspired by wanting to appear better than your employee, it wasn’t good feedback.
2. Use the Servant Leadership Model
Servant leadership is an approach to leadership that puts others’ needs ahead of your own. Sound familiar? It’s also a tenet of Christianity. After all, as Pope Francis wrote in his 2018 exhortation “Gaudete et exsultate,” “It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others.”
As a servant leader, then, giving feedback means that you consider the other person first as a child of God and then as an employee. How can you help your team members grow personally and professionally? What are their goals and values, and how can your feedback support them? What are you or your organization not currently providing them that they need in order to flourish? Keeping these questions in mind before and during a feedback conversation will help you treat each employee with the dignity he or she deserves.
Listening is crucial to any relationship, and the manager/employee relationship is no different. Take a page from Esther’s book: When someone saw her cousin wearing a sackcloth and ashes outside of the palace, Esther tried to fix what seemed to be his problem by giving him some clothes. However, she then learned that he was dressed that way not due to a lack of clothing but due to the king’s decree to kill all the Jews. Then, she made the decision to go to her husband, the king, to end the decree.
Many managers see a performance issue, assume they know what caused it and respond accordingly. It’s important to take the next step and listen, asking additional questions if necessary, to find out what’s actually causing the issue and the steps to take to fix it.
As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “You can pray while you work. Work doesn’t stop prayer and prayer doesn’t stop work.” Before any performance-related meeting with a team member, take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words and open your mind.
Offering up any discomfort you feel while giving feedback can also be a great way to integrate your spiritual and work lives. In a recent post for the Word on Fire blog, Elizabeth Scalia wrote:
If we accept that no act in human history can begin to match the power, the healing, and the victory that was activated in the crucified suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then attaching our own trials (minor or major though they be) to that still-resonating act of generosity and self-abnegation exposes them to all of the good contained in Christ’s sacrifice, and it assists in the salvation of the world.
Offer up your discomfort with feedback for your team members. You just might help save the world.
5. Critique the Behavior, Not the Person
As servant leaders – and as Catholics – we must honor the dignity of the people who work with us. When giving feedback, focus your criticisms on the behavior the person has demonstrated rather than on the person you’re speaking with. Doing so will help you keep any strong emotions (yours or theirs) at bay and show them that you care about them, not just what they do.
The way you phrase your feedback matters here. For example, instead of saying, “You’re perpetually tardy,” say, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been late a lot lately. Is there something going on that’s making it difficult to get here on time?”
St. Teresa of Calcutta famously said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” As a manager, you are expected to judge; as a Catholic, you are expected to love.
Are these expectations in opposition? Not necessarily. By following these tips, you can treat your team members with respect and, yes, love – while helping them improve their performance and support business success.
Taryn Oesch is a writer in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she works as a managing editor for Training Industry, Inc., a digital media and content marketing company. She writes and speaks about women’s issues and disability inclusion for a variety of publications and conferences and is a contributing writer to FemCatholic.com. Her role models are all named Teresa, and she keeps discovering new ways they influence her work and her life. When not writing or editing, Taryn is typically reading Jane Austen, drinking Earl Grey, and spending time with family and friends. She is an active member of the Raleigh Catholic Young Adults, where she co-leads a women’s small group and plays the piano and flute for monthly Holy Hours. You can follow Taryn on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and on her blog Everyday Roses.