We gather insight from Angela Lane and Sergey Gorbatov, authors of Fair Talk: Three Steps to Powerful Feedback, on what their FairTalk Statement is, and why all leaders should be using it.
First and foremost, FairTalk is about performance. It is the feedback that your team members need to deliver at the highest level. This requires a continuous process of honest assessment coupled with a reason to, and accountability for, improvement. In that sense, FairTalk is aspirational. It is anchored in belief about human potential – your potential and the potential of every member of your team.
FairTalk, left at that, just wouldn’t be very practical. The aspiration of development gurus and self-help books must be tempered by what experience tells us and science confirms: we humans aren’t very good at improvement. Instead of embracing honest assessment and the possibility of transformation, we’re experts at avoiding feedback, rationalizing faults and launching into efforts to change, only to abandon them later.
So FairTalk is more…
FairTalk takes the science of why, as humans, we respond poorly to feedback and uses that knowledge. FairTalk deconstructs the reasons why feedback isn’t given and why feedback, when it does happen, rarely works. It is a method for diagnosing individual performance issues. The result is a fair and focused assessment. A simple three-part FairTalk Statement communicates the needed change. The formula taps into the ‘why’ of change and then delivers an assessment of the current state of performance and expectations for improvement. The result is detailed, destination focused, developmental and -above all – doable (the 4 Ds) feedback. That’s FairTalk.
By leveraging the science behind the FairTalk Statement, anyone can improve the performance of the individuals in their team. However, performance improvement would still be difficult, and potentially unsustainable, if the efforts rested solely on your shoulders. FairTalk can be more than just feedback to an individual. FairTalk can become a culture: an ecosystem within the team, or the organization, where performance no longer depends on the manager’s feedback to drive improvement. A simple diagnostic tool provides the basis on which the current culture can be assessed. Through the tool, the requirements for delivering a FairTalk Culture can be identified and implemented.
If that is what FairTalk is, it is only right to describe what FairTalk isn’t. It isn’t a formula to make employees happy, although it should make them satisfied. It isn’t ‘all about the dialogue’ – it is tougher and fairer than that. It is about a clear expectation for change. The FairTalk approach isn’t dogmatic. It is anchored in available research. As that evolves, we are open to feedback and change. Finally, although FairTalk is simple, it isn’t necessarily easy. But we’ll teach you to master it.
How To Use This Book
You are busy. You don’t need to follow the chapter sequence. Focus on what’s relevant. Start with what matters most to you. You could even go to Chapter 15 right away to see the troubleshooting guide and work back from there.
Part One – Feedback That Matters
We begin with the basics. in Chapter 1 we clarify the link between performance and feedback, debunking the myths unconfirmed by science. Chapter 2 talks about the science of human performance: capability, personal characteristics and context (we call these the 3 C’s). Chapter 3 points out the biggest barriers to progress. In Chapter 4 we uncover the foundational principles of feedback: fairness, focus and credibility. In Chapter 5 we lay out the compelling case for feedback. Today there is a heightened interest in the topic of feedback so we answer the questions ‘Why?’ and ‘Why now?’.
Part Two – FairTalk Leader
This is all about what you need to do. If Part One is the theoretical primer on performance and feedback, Part Two is entirely practical. Chapter 6 will help you identify the specific developmental needs of your team and includes practical advice for confirming your thinking, for fairness and accuracy. Key reason feedback isn’t given is that people don’t know how to do it. At the heart of FairTalk is the FairTalk Statement, a straightforward approach to constructing effective feedback messages. Developing messages can and should be easy. Chapter 7 shows you how to develop an elegant FairTalk Statement that provides the learner with a reason to care, an honest assessment of their current state of performance and your clear expectations for the future. This practical methodology aligns with the science and is proven to add value in everyday coaching and in more formal performance appraisal settings.
In designing and delivering the FairTalk Statement we have also aimed to help you avoid three common traps. Chapter 8 concerns quality control for the feedback you plan to give. The feedback that is baffling, bogus, or brutal (the 3 Bs) will do more harm than good. Chapter 9 deals with the emotional aspects of giving feedback. You’ll learn how to ‘keep calm and give feedback’ through preparation and practice. Finally, Chapter 10 is all about the receiver. It will teach you to navigate contextual boundaries, such as culture, gender, generational differences or organizational layers, to connect with the receiver for improved outcomes.
Chapter 11 revisits the challenges of personal change. It deals with the question of why change is tough but achievable. We are creatures of habit and habits can be cultivated. You will find out how to successfully build positive habits in those you lead.
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