My phone rings off the hook this time of year. For many, it is performance review time. I know first-hand how much people love this process. How do I give John feedback, so he does something with it, rather than just nodding his head and ignoring me? Why is it that every time I give Molly feedback, she stares at me blankly? What am I doing wrong?? (Similar behavior to my two teenagers at home anytime I start talking about how they aren’t living up to their natural abilities…)


This process doesn’t need to be time-consuming and torturous.


When we pay attention to our colleagues, and understand them for the people they are, we can speak to them so we are heard. And when we are heard, we influence and impact those around us. To do this, we need to properly interpret their behaviors.


As a Master Trainer with Emergenetics, I know we tend to interact with those around us in ways that are comfortable to us. It’s not to say that we can’t interact or behave otherwise. I encourage people to step just outside their comfort zone to communicate the way our audience needs to hear it. Speak their language.


Emergenetics is a psychometric assessment tool that simplifies how people communicate. It takes the guesswork out of how someone will show up on any given day. Emergenetics identifies how people behave and think. Let’s examine giving feedback through the Emergenetics lens of behavior:


Expressiveness is your outward display of emotions to others and the world at large. People can be external processors, meaning they speak to think. Everything out of their mouth is a rough draft, until they let you know it is their final answer. They are the ones who walk into your office and say, ‘Hey! Can I talk this through with you?’ Or people can be internal processors, meaning they think to speak. They draft and edit their comments inside their head before sharing. They are the ones who in a meeting will say something brilliant about half-way through the meeting, which they have been mulling through in their minds.


Assertiveness is the amount of energy you invest in advancing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. There are those who enjoy a fast pace environment and try to convince others of their point of view. They tend to communicate in a direct manner. On the other hand, there are those who enjoy a gentle and easy-going pace. They are peacekeepers and like to get everyone on board when making a decision. We are all assertive, the difference is in the style and pace at which we assert.


Flexibility is your willingness to accommodate the thoughts and actions of others. It is how you respond to change generated by others. There are those who will change on a dime and welcome a changing environment. They like many options and can see all points of view. On the other hand, there are those who will change on a quarter. They thrive in an environment where they can focus and stay on track. They too like options, and once a decision is made, they stick to it.


As you plan to give feedback to your peers and colleagues, consider your audience. What have you noticed in their behaviors? Where do they fall on each of the behavior spectrums described above?


Here are some tips to give feedback that is actionable and can be heard:


Behavior: Expressiveness

  1. External Processors– They may want to interact and share their thoughts with you verbally. Don’t rush through the meeting, instead give them the time they need to digest it with you.
  2. Internal Processors– They may show little emotion in response to your feedback. They will process it and may respond to you at a later point. Don’t put them on the spot and immediately ask for their input or thoughts.


Behavior: Assertiveness

  1. Fast-Paced Environment– Interact with them at their pace: fast. They may want to engage in a lively discussion with you about the feedback. Don’t skirt around issues, be direct.
  2. Gentle Environment– Offer feedback in a gentle manner. Keep in mind they may not address conflict. Don’t engage them in a discussion that may appear debate-like.


Behavior: Flexibility

  1. Change on a Dime– Stay on track, potentially with an agenda, in delivering your feedback. Be frank. Allow them time to express their opinions. Don’t forget to give them insight into how the changes may impact their projects.
  2. Change on a Quarter– Offer solutions to change, ask for their opinions on different approaches. Don’t come to conclusions quickly, rather give them time to consider all their options. Give them a deadline for making and implementing the change.


When we know our audience, and how to best communicate with them, feedback is a productive conversation. Your audience will take action. And, you will save time in drafting your performance reviews.