Having Difficult Conversations – Just Have a Beer!
Giving feedback (especially negative feedback) can be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, clear feedback is integral to effective leadership. Indeed, feedback helps us grow – all of us.
The BEER technique is a simple way of giving difficult feedback. There are an number of steps. But you must first summarize the situation you must address. What is the issue? Who is involved? Make this 100% clear from the outset.
Describe the person’s behavior in specific, objective terms. What have you observed the person saying or doing? Be as precise as possible. Don’t judge, just describe. Make it objective, without being objectionable.
“I have observed that you… (behavior). Or, “when you… (behavior).
Describe the impact of the person’s behavior as you have experienced it. The impact can be on people (you or others) performance (quality, quantity) or things (physical property or equipment).
“When you…(behavior)… the result is… (Effect). Express any personal feelings or thoughts about the behavior(s). “When you (behavior) I get angry because…
Inquire and harvest his perspective. Explore and collect feedback from your colleague. Make sure all the facts are on the table (you might not know the whole story). Then you can describe the behavior you expect from the individual, in the future. Get agreement on the need for change. If this is a major change, you might break the change into manageable chunks.
Describe the positive resulting from the change in his behavior. Get a firm commitment on an action plan to change the behavior, thereby ensuring a positive result. Set some sort of milestones, or a follow-up. How did it work out? Don’t let your colleague revert to the old behavior. It is tough to change habits, so this might take some time.
Why does the BEER work?
You concentrate on behavior, rather than people. That is inherently less threatening for people who need to change. Second, BEER is a collaborative process: Your colleague participates, and agrees to an action plan. You get his commitment to the commitment.
Finally, you need to be flexible: Sure, you want behavior to change, but you want your colleague to own his own transformation. Make sure you understand your colleague’s perspective. Get his input on how he will change his behavior. Offer support, or mentoring, during the change process. Keep it focused and light. You are having a beer, after all.