What is your response when someone says this to you?  Do you work in a culture where the common response to this is “what I have I done now..“

This response is not unusual in the workplace today despite the many things leaders and managers are doing to ensure they have an inclusive and diverse working environment. Our best efforts to equip people with the skills and confidence they need are sometimes over complicated or simply don’t land well.

Over the last 8 months, here at On Track Learning we have been working with over 50 managers at Real Life Options to develop the way they manage and lead their teams. What they do as an organisation is truly wonderful and their desire to do right by the people in their business is likewise commendable. 

From increasing their self-awareness as a manager (Dr Tasha Eurich , organisational psychologist and author, makes the claim that self- awareness is the number one sought after trait in modern leaders) through to leading through ambiguity and how we deal with the ever changing world in which we live, we continue to be confronted with people who see providing and receiving feedback as a necessary evil and something they avoid.

Given this conundrum, we explored a simple but highly effective tool that we could use to help leaders and managers to provide impactful feedback.

The tool we used was DESC. Despite the  simplicity of the tool, it can increase the impact that feedback can have when using it. 

Our focus within one of the modules in the Real Life Options manager programme was on increasing our own self-awareness and the impact this has on the people we lead. 

We outlined the DESC tool as follows:-

D = Describe the behaviour or situation in which you observed the evidence or the feedback you want to share.

E = Express the impact this had on you

S = Specify where improvements can be made

C = Clarify the consequences of what could happen if the feedback is not acted on.

The managers had recently undertaken a strengths profiling exercise and were asked to share these in small groups. As part of this sharing, they were asked to practice giving each other feedback, using DESC, on why they should develop their strengths further. Introducing the DESC tool this way felt non-intrusive and therefore allowed them to practice in a safe space with each other.

The managers were asked to share a strength they had uncovered that they were proud of and others were asked to provide feedback on when they had experienced the person using that strength.

In one instance, the manager shared that she was proud of the strength of ‘Rapport Building’

“ I recognise that in you” said another manager.

Describe the situation – “I remember how quickly you welcomed me into the leadership team and found things we had in common and equally what was unique about us”. 

Express the impact – “It really did help us forge a strong relationship quickly and it helped me make the step up”.

Specific improvements – “If this could be done with the new IT directors in head office as well and not just focus the conversation on the IT project that has kicked off, I feel this would help progress things”. 

Clarify consequences – “Because the quicker we create a stronger working relationship with IT, the quicker we can implement the new IT infrastructure across all areas and not miss out on the launch date, which we both know is vital for us as business”.

It was fantastic to see both managers, in this instance, get so much out of the process of delivering simple but highly impactful feedback. It was also great to hear the managers often recalling DESC as they went through the programme and reflecting on using it across their teams, not just from them as leaders.

So, if you are looking to continue to develop a diverse and inclusive working culture and have great ideas or initiatives, please do remember that simple and easy to use tools really can help.

Don Kersley – Leadership Specialist