In my last post we looked at how to handle conflict within your teams so neither you nor your team members lose their cool. This is a very sensitive issue now while everyone is under the stress of lockdown and remote work. The topic leads me to today’s post which is how to give real, effective feedback without upsetting anyone.
I remember one unforgettable day where I was given some quite critical feedback. Normally I’m very open to feedback because I truly believe in continuous improvement. But on this occasion, I felt it was quite unfair. Why? Because of the way it was delivered and the language used. The heat grew because of the system of delivery, more than their opinion of my delivery. Did the feedback help me improve and develop? Well, no! Certainly not initially. The words used were so confronting that I instinctively felt defensive (in my mind, not verbally). Honestly, all the feedback did was make me upset. And I’m the type who is usually really open to feedback; the good, bad and ugly!
What is feedback?
The problem with feedback is that even today it is regarded as a one-sided message. I’ve said it before. “Typically, we think of feedback as something leaders offer their team members to help improve their performance. Effective feedback, however, is a two-way street. Feedback should be both given and received.”
That’s the heart of the issue. Too many people come to the chat concentrating on the message they want to deliver rather than pursuing an open, two-way conversation.
If you want to deliver authentic feedback that makes a difference, there are two fundamental keys you need. Let’s take a look at them.
The right headspace.
I’ve learnt a lot about feedback through my coaching clients because they want and need me to give them accurate feedback. Honest and appropriate feedback is supportive and gives them the chance to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. That’s why I’m such a fan of Brene Brown’s Engaged Feedback Checklist.
She has clearly described the headspace you need to be in before you consider offering feedback.
- I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
- I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.
- I am open to owning my part.
As you read the checklist, you’ll notice it’s very much about shared conversation, shared responsibility and openness. What it does is prompt you to take away the judgement, the blame, and any emotion you might be carrying.
Brené Brown has said, “People are desperate for feedback…we just need to learn how to give feedback in a way that inspires growth and engagement.” That’s the principle driving her Engaged Feedback Checklist.
Before you share feedback with anyone, run through the checklist to see if you’re truly in the right headspace to do it properly.
This is the second key to sharing honest and authentic feedback. We’ve discussed this before, but I think it’s so valuable we need to touch on it again.
Radical Candor is a term created by Kim Scott. She says, “Radical Candor is what happens when you show someone that you Care Personally while you Challenge Directly, without being aggressive or insincere. Radical Candor really just means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to.”
Brené Brown teaches a similar approach, saying “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
It’s all about honesty in feedback; giving specific information or examples that the person can recognise and work to improve. It’s about being brave and responsible enough to give your people the information they need, even though it might be hard to hear. After all, who would ever improve if they only heard good things about themselves?
Using the two keys to delivering effective feedback.
Now imagine you’re about to deliver some constructive feedback. You’re in the right headspace for a two-way conversation, you’re prepared to say what has to be said, and you’re ready to focus on the solution, not the problem.
How do you put all that together?
- Focus on the situation, not the person. Be factual, and don’t imply blame.
- Use specific examples rather than generalise. The more concrete the example, the easier it is to understand and accept.
- Concentrate on looking together for a solution. Don’t dwell on the past but work together towards a change.
Always remember that people generally intend to offer their best so if they aren’t meeting the standard, there could be a good reason for it. The purpose of your feedback conversation is the discover the reason so you can do something about it.
Remember: when people feel challenged, they resist. When they feel cared for, they cooperate. It’s as simple as that.
Delivering effective and honest feedback is a critical leadership skill but it’s also a skill that each member of your team needs to develop. Becoming part of my Courageous Conversations in Teams workshop will give help you master this special form of communication. Contact me and let’s see how I can help you.
Be sure to pop back here for my next post where I’ll dig deeper into the topic of feedback, particularly for a performance review.