How to master the one essential rule of feedback.

How to master the one essential rule of feedback.
April 14, 2021 Linda Murray

Brene Brown tweeted “There is no mastery without feedback. But it’s hard…My mantra for receiving feedback: Be brave. Listen. You can take what’s helpful and leave the rest. My mantra for giving feedback: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

Today I want to focus on the art of giving feedback because I think we’ve built so many rules around it that it seems like a scary thing to do.

Choose the right time…

Choose the right place…

Give immediate feedback…

Wait until the emotion has passed…

No wonder so many leaders avoid giving feedback if they possibly can. However, one simple rule makes the act of giving feedback an easier and constructive process.

The essential rule is “Be Clear.”

Brene Brown hit the nail on the head when she says, “clear is kind.” I remember one occasion years ago where my leader was offering feedback to me. I know she was genuine because I felt it, but by the end of the meeting, I was still quite unclear on what she was trying to say. If leaders can’t get the message across, they are wasting their time.

Kim Scott wrote a book called Radical Candor and in it she says radical candour means being more specific and sincere with praise and being more kind and clear with criticism.

Feedback as we know it isn’t working.

Gallup research found only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work. According to OfficeVibe, 82% of employees appreciate receiving feedback, whether it’s positive or negative and 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. 65% of employees said they wanted more feedback. Managers think they are giving sufficient feedback, but they aren’t, and when they do, it doesn’t tell them how to change.

Why clearness works.

Part of the leader’s role is to influence change and often that means helping others improve their performance. It’s clear that nobody likes to hear criticism even if it’s constructive. It’s hard to accept that we’re not as good as we want to be, yet the research proves that we’re willing to change if we’re given clear information.

In other words, feedback should be clear, relevant and solutions oriented.

3 tips for delivering clear feedback.

  1. Give feedback when it’s needed. Don’t wait for the formal performance review. The sooner you can give feedback, the sooner things can begin to improve. If you wait to explain what needs to change, the unacceptable behaviour is gradually becoming an embedded performance. In other words, it become automatic behaviour which is harder to change.
  2. Show don’t tell. In Radical Candor, Scott says “The more clearly you show what is good or bad, the more helpful your feedback will be.” Telling someone they’ve made mistakes in their work is not as effective as showing them where the mistakes are and why they are incorrect. Not only does it keep the emotion out of the discussion, but it also gives clear examples the person can see for themselves.
  3. Suggest solutions. Feedback isn’t about complaints. It’s about solutions. Make sure you have some suggestions to offer or help the person come up with their own alternatives. The solution must work for them while still meeting your organisational needs. This approach ensures your conversation is encouraging, not critical.

The essential rule of feedback is to be clear. Be clear in what needs to change and be clear in the solution you both agree on.

Want to discover more about feedback and how to deliver it in an encouraging and clear manner? Download my eBook on Courageous Conversations. You’ll learn how to have meaningful conversations which build relationships even though the topics may be difficult. It’s yours free.

If you have feedback tips of your own that you’d like to share, please share them in the comments below.

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