Talk of the town

Give candid feedback

While Palmer may spend extra time onSundays responding to e-mails and thinkingabout how she can really spark an employee’s energy, she notes that full communication means being candid, and it doesn’tmean that you say yes all of the time.

Candid feedback is tricky for most people. If you’re trying to get people to come toyou, you don’t want them thinking they’regoing to leave feeling berated. For Palmer,candid feedback is all about tone and consideration.

“I tend to find that pointing out positivesalong with negatives or along with ways toimprove tends to be a good way of doingit,” she says. “And they’ll believe that youreally want them to succeed. People haveto believe that you are out there for them,that you want their success.”

And, gentlemen leaders out there, this isone area where Palmer thinks women havethe upper hand.

“Interestingly enough, I think, for women,it’s easier to do because we’re more nurturing by nature,” she says. “So as a result,you can frame something for someone thatmay be more critical, and yet, you canframe it in a way that is more positive. Youhave to celebrate people’s successes butthen show them how they can be better.And occasionally, you have to be stern, butby being candid with people, they can emulate your style when they see it being successful. Try to lead them to do some of thethings and say, ‘Well, that was a good wayto do it, but maybe you should try this.’”

That can come in different forms — somemore personalized and some more individual — and Palmer points to a trip she madeto her Ft. Lauderdale offices to make presentations at each.

“You need to connect with your audience,” she says. “I spent all weekend tryingto pull out success stories so that I can really point to things they’ve done successfullyas a team. That’s a great way to create theconnection and the buy-in and then be ableto say, ‘OK, here’s what I need.’”

The use of success stories or truly positive points makes a big difference in dealing with your employees. Palmer canpoint to her own career as an example.Though she has no problem saying she’salways been an overachiever, she took thebest lessons from leaders who gave hercandid feedback that still focused on herown talents.

“I can’t say that I really ever had onementor, which is sort of unfortunate, but Ido think there are a lot of people whohelped make me better at what I was bynot telling me to change but giving meideas of how to be better being the personthat I am, and that was the most valuable,”she says. “People giving me feedback andrecognizing the value of my personality,and having the feedback coincide withhow to get better at exactly who you are,that’s always been really helpful, and I tryto do that, too.”

HOW TO REACH: Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., www.ml.com

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