Specifics and facts can save your life

If you have ever heard me speak about the practice of providing feedback, you have heard about the importance of citing specific, factual behaviors so that the team member knows exactly what they did to deserve the reward or reprimand.   I heard a story the other day that put this into new perspective.

broken-window-theoryLinda and I are looking at replacing the windows in our house.  They’re old, drafty, some don’t work and I’ll be honest, I don’t like cooling (or heating) the neighborhood.  (More evidence that I have turned into my Dad.)  As we were talking to one window rep, John, he told us about a time a few years ago when the house next to his was being broken into.  It was daylight, so John not only heard the ruckus, but he also SAW the guy climbing through a window to get into the house.  He immediately called 911.

He said the first cop got there in about 45 seconds.  Then another arrived, then another.  At one point, John was watching the action unfold in the front of his house when he turned around to see 2 more cops approaching his neighbor’s house from his back yard.  All in all, there were 14 cops that were dispatched and responded to this call.  All because of what John told the dispatcher.

After the perp was apprehended, John asked one of the officers why so many cops had been sent to this one location.  He was told that it was because when he called it in to 911, he said, “I saw someone breaking into the house next door.  He was wearing tan pants and black shoes.”  Because he said “I saw” and gave specifics, they knew he was talking about facts and that there was a real situation at hand.  Had he said “I think heard something” or “there might be something going on”, it would not have warranted the same attention.

Bringing this back to feedback (and really any communication), when the message is clear, detailed and factual, it is much more likely to provide the outcome or result you are looking for.

Thanks for reading!