A helpful discipline when giving feedback to someone, or when having a tough conversation to help correct someone’s unproductive actions, is sharing three data points. Data points are examples of what the person is doing that demonstrates the bad behavior.
If you have to confront one of your people for bad behavior – let’s say he or she is treating people in the office poorly – you owe that person three examples. There is truly magic in three. Two is not enough and four is too many.
If you don’t give three examples, he or she will rationalize his or her way out of it.
Three Data Points
With the first data point, he or she will explain it away. With the second data point, he or she will have a relatively good excuse. But the third data point will show that it is an issue, and he or she will usually think, “Okay, you got me.” At that point, his or her mind is open, and you can then have a productive conversation about solutions.
So this is the rule of thumb: when your leadership team is solving a people issue and one of you is about to take the action item to meet with the person and solve it, make sure you get three data points from the team before you leave the meeting.
Strike while the iron is hot and the team is clear on the issue. Also, the others usually see the data points better than the manager due to the person putting a good face on in front of his or her boss. Try it in this week’s meeting.