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Dear Suzanne: Communicating to Manage PerformanceDear Suzanne, 

A colleague of mine recently attended the EDSI Communicating to Manage Performance program, which has spurred interesting conversation at our Friday manager lunches. While my department didn’t attend, I’m curious about one of the concepts she has mentioned repeatedly.

She called it the use of “I-Statements.” According to her, the I-Statement will help disarm defensive employees. The reason this has piqued my interest is that I consistently have trouble giving feedback to my team. No matter how often I use an I-Statement, it hasn’t worked in the way that it is supposed to. Here is an example of typical corrective feedback that I give on a daily basis: “I’m really anxious and I was kept up last night thinking about the disappointing sales figures. What are you planning to do to turn them around?”

I must admit that I’ve become a doubter about this method of giving feedback. Please resolve the friendly disagreement with my colleague by explaining how I may be on or off track on my I-Statements.Communicate to Manage Performance

Greg M. 
Atlanta, GA




What a great story! It is exciting for me to imagine some of our attendees going back to work and spreading the ideas that they explored and integrated during our programs! I appreciate that you are a doubter, because the “I-Statements” haven’t worked for you. I think your attempt to use I-Statements is laudable. However, I’d like make a few suggestions to help you reframe the way you use the I-Statement.

Below are the reasons we prioritize the I-Statement. Please read through them carefully,  and compare these intended outcomes to the outcomes that have resulted from your I-Statements.

  • I-Statements are a skill to increase listening and understanding.
  • I-Statements encourage proactive listening and defuse defensive responses.
  • I-Statements do not blame or judge. They create communication that is honest, open, and accountable.

How do your version of the I-Statements measure up? Here are the two most important things to remember when using I-Statements with your staff.

1. Begin with the word “I.” Then express your viewpoint, preference, or feeling.

For example: “I need everyone’s input on the best way to proceed,” or “I like the way you greet clients,” or “You always make eye contact and have a smile on  your face, or I need your help with this project.”

2. Be careful not to simply disguise accusatory “You” statements. Oftentimes, failed I-Statements are only disguised You Statements.

For example: “I think you should participate more in staff meetings,” or I feel that you need to pay more attention to details.”

Next time, give these tactics a try. I look forward to finding out how they work for you. I predict that your next attempts will result in open, non-defensive, and most importantly, impactful communication that leads to changed behavior!


Suzanne Updegraff

4 Keys to Impact Performance Now

Breaking the Succession PipelineLearning about and teaching your team members effective negotiation tactics is just one of the ways to foster a productive workforce.  Many leaders don’t recognize what impacts positive performance.

Failure to realize that the best possible performance is a result of three simple metrics. Contrary to popular belief, money is the third or fourth reason that high performers quit their job. according to a recent Gallup poll, over half of employees (60%) seekgreater clarity
of organizational goals, more mentoring, better communication, improved workplace relationships and regular, specific feedback. We invite you to learn the fundamentals of these three metrics in our latest infographic.


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