Feedback? You Need To ________(Verb) _________(Adverb) _________(Adjective).
Giving feedback can be challenging. If you think it is easy, odds are there is much room for improvement in how you go about it. Especially if you don’t see improvements or change after doling out your thoughts. The ultimate goal is to have impact on someone’s actions. The ultimate success is when you can help them grow their self awareness.
If you aren’t a manager, knowing how to properly give out feedback helps you in three ways. Read how it helps, then conclude with learning how to give proper feedback.
When given feedback poorly, you can get more
By knowing the right way to give feedback, when it is given to you improperly you now know how to position questions in such a way that you can source out the intentions of the untrained leader.
You can spot a good leader
By knowing the right way to give feedback, you can better spot people worthy of being followed. Even if they aren’t leaders it makes it easier to support them and help see them attain that role.
You can shine when it is time
As an IC (Individual Contributor) we aren’t expected to give feedback often. When we need to, it is often over something challenging or difficult. You want to be prepared to do it right, get the most out of how you do it. And when you do it properly, those around you will be more receptive next time.
Poor Feedback – is Blurry
Most likely you’ve gotten it before. Broad statements that are hard to pinpoint what exactly to do. Statements like:
- You need to be more professional.
- It would be better if you were more collaborative.
- You need to have more faith in our vision.
These also can extend into positive feedback
- That presentation was awesome.
- Your slide deck really got the point across.
- That was an excellent demo,
When given broad feedback like this, the receiver is left reviewing in their mind exactly what to change. They might pick the wrong behavior. Or worse yet, they might climb the ladder of inference and become insecure about correct behavior and change that the wrong way. The person will be asking themselves what exactly they need to do. More collaborative? Am I not doing enough already? Is what I’m doing moving too slow? Am I prioritizing wrong?
Proper Feedback – has Focus
Proper feedback follows a model that helps the receiver understand why the provider feels it is okay to give that feedback. It helps put a foundation to the discussion and also gives the recipient an opportunity to be involved. It doesn’t feel like it is being handed down like a proclamation.
Some will feel this is obvious, others might feel as a leader they shouldn’t need to. If you are speaking with a peer, you need to ask their permission to give them feedback. Even if you are their superior it positions the discussion better. If you ask and they agree, they have created a social contract of sorts. Both parties know they have an obligation to at least get through a few sentences. And if you follow the model you are more likely to get to all of it and help improve the situation.
Begin with the Behavior
This helps bring the feedback into focus. It is also important that this happen soon after the event. People’s memories fade and change with time, but if you are able to have the discussion within 24 to 48 hours it is more likely to be more consistently remembered by all parties involved. If you didn’t actually observe the behavior then it takes even more diplomacy. You need to be able to cover this part without breaking the trust someone else might have with you. You also should never assume what their intent was. There might be details you are unaware of or other stressors that impacted the interaction.
Discuss the Impact
What did you see happen because of this behavior? Remember, your “reality” is really your perception and the person you are giving feedback to, as well as others that were there, might feel very different. The other party now understands who was affected and how.
Start the Dialogue with a Question
By this time you’ve already set the foundation by setting up the social contract to have a discussion. You’ve also been specific, which helps keep focus to the discussion. No one is distracted searching their memory trying to understand. By shifting into a question it becomes a dialogue and not a proclamation or a court ruling the judge is dispensing.
It can be as simple as “how do you see what happened?” This now allows the other person to participate, to explain more about what was going on. There are probably details you are not aware of.
A bad example
You’ve been short tempered lately. You need to get that under control.
This is too vague in many ways. The listener might think about times that they were serious and direct at an appropriate time. This can lower their confidence during the times they need to be direct or stern. There are times for this behavior, especially in sales.
Some details, but actually worse
Richard complained that you yelled at him in the meeting. You need to not do that.
This is especially bad if you were in the meeting where the “incident” happened. Especially if you only heard the person, who is normally soft spoken, raise their voice. They now will think that if they complain directly to you as Richard did, that you will betray their trust. You’ve just severely damaged whatever trust and respect you have built up.
A better example
I noticed at the meeting your raised your voice at Richard. This can not only make others feel bad, but can stifle open conversation. I’d like to get your take on the situation.
Now you’ve created a dialogue, as well as you haven’t put the receiver on the defensive.
Most people want to do the best they can. They want to improve and they are hungry for feedback. Especially when properly dispensed.
These thoughts are my own. The examples given were hypothetical and here just to provide potential examples.
Image credits can be found on image credits page.