Friendly FeedbackSome years ago, I was prompted by a brief Business Week article to get myself a copy of Power Talk: Using Language to Build Authority and Influence (out of print), by Sarah Myers McGinty, an adviser in the teacher education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Much of McGinty's book is predictable in the advice it offers for cultivating the sort of "presence" that is necessary to rise to a senior executive position. One tool that stood out for me as a real contribution to helping people grow was McGinty's guidelines for observing a colleague in a meeting in order to provide friendly performance feedback afterwards.
In edited form, these are the questions McGinty recommends the observer have in mind during the meeting (p.61):
- When does the speaker present information as statements, and when as questions?
- Does the speaker weaken her points by inserting ill-worded disclaimers ("I'm not really sure about these figures, but ...")?
- Does the speaker present a confident and assured demeanor, or does he seem nervous and hesitant?
- When does the speaker connect her points to what has been said previously, and when does she take the conversation in a new direction?
- Does the speaker use evidence or experience to claim authority?
- When does the speaker interrupt, and when does he get interrupted?
- How often does the speaker contribute? How long is each contribution?
- How often does the speaker stutter, hesitate, say "um" or "er"?
- Is there a repeated phrase ("To tell you the truth...") or other habit that detracts from the speaker's effectiveness?
- Body language:
- Does the speaker look at individuals in the group?
- Are his hands still, or are they flying around?
- Is she fidgeting or making repetitive eye, head and/or hand movements?
- Are his facial expressions reserved, or are they animated in a natural way?
- Does her body language reinforce her credibility, or does it undercut credibility?
- Judging from their facial expressions, how are listeners responding to the speaker?
- Does gaze reinforce the speaker's air of competence and confidence in what she is saying? I.e., is the speaker looking directly at the audience; and are members of the audience indicating via an attentive and deferential gaze that they acknowledge the speaker's expertise?