Regardless of one’s job within any organization it’s very likely that at various times you are in a position of giving feedback to another. It could be a co-worker, a team you oversee, a department of the full organization. As such, and given that one’s goal is to bring about some improvement or realignment of direction, the likelihood of being successful depends a lot on how the message is delivered which impacts the way in which it is received. And whereas it seems pretty straight forward, it’s somewhat staggering to be faced with the problems we can create when feedback is delivered in the wrong way. Yes … there is an art to providing feedback and the extent to which we are good at it definitely has an impact on overall achievement of the individual or team and the respect we earn as a feedback provider/leader by achieving the goal of it being well received.
It’s important to recognize and accept that feedback is of both the positive and negative variety as there are times when both are totally warranted. Too often it is the need for negative feedback that motivates one to provide it. And when we are only moved to deliver feedback through the ‘negative’ channel, we potentially impact the response we will receive and the desired response we seek. When this happens we often find ourselves dealing with unintended consequences that serve to derail the overall goals we have for it.
Here are some dos and don’ts of having your feedback achieve its’ intended goal:
- Incorporate feedback into the relationship you have on a regular basis.
This means that you actively look for things you can communicate that reinforce what is being done that is right on a regular basis. When a person becomes used to hearing the good regularly, it lets them be more open to input that represents a chance for them to improve some aspect of the job.
- Be Curious as a listener
Of course you have your perception and understanding of what has been done and why that is not ideal or working. However you gain respect when you can first understand the reason one has for doing something in a certain way. Yes, this might make sense to you and yes, you may have a way that you want to convey that will be more accurate, faster, more efficient … just better. Initially, being a listener earns credibility and a willingness to be heard in return which is precisely what you want.
- Deliver feedback of any nature in person
Although email and texts are so efficient in many ways, they are not the best vehicle through which to deliver any type of feedback. In person, we get to observe the reaction and continue the conversation in that moment to bring it to the desired outcome and place. In addition, that we take the time to take the ‘in-person’ approach earns respect. Using some indirect method may be more comfortable for the one providing feedback, however, it lacks any warmth and sincerity regardless of the feedback being positive or negative. That you take the time to do this face to face is meaningful to the recipient.
- Sandwich your feedback … provide positives WITH negatives.
Even when you have things that you’d like to have done differently in process or behavior there are also things that the person is doing right or they probably wouldn’t be working with you. Your feedback session should easily focus on both as in … “you’re doing a stellar job in the way you handle this and I appreciate that very much. And … there is one area wherein I believe there might be a more ….”
- Eliminate the word ‘but’ from your feedback vocabulary
Too often, when wanting to provide some form of negative feedback and even when we begin with a positive compliment we separate the two by using the word ‘but’. To the listener what this indicates is that they should forget about the compliment because that preceded the ‘but’ for they believe it is the negative input that you really meant. In fact, if we are being truthful and candid, we mean both and thus, replacing the word ‘but’ with ‘and’ does the trick as you want them to continue doing what is going well.
- Check to make certain that your feedback was understood as you intended
Ask the recipient to give back to you what they have understood from your message. This is your opportunity to make certain that you were heard and understood as YOU intended. If the person got your message clearly … wonderful. And if they didn’t it is your chance to correct what they heard to match your full intended message.
This checklist can provide the structure and considerations that will enhance the chances that you achieve just what your feedback is designed to do in terms of results. A good practice when approaching a feedback session is to take a moment to make sure that what you intend to deliver is done in a way that will deliver the value and get the results intended. Then, you will have created the desired win for all.