Can I give you some feedback, badly? Part 2

Naturally, once you have practiced the skill of receiving feedback, you will be better positioned to give constructive feedback.  

I want to stress two elements of the sentence above.  

First, practice. Yes, this is something that requires practice and time, and it won’tbe something that you develop overnight. 

Next, skill.  

Like any leadership tool, receiving feedback and giving constructive feedback is a skill that requires development. 

In fact, as times change, work realities change and as new generations come to the workplace, how you give feedback might also need to evolve over time.  

Like receiving feedback, giving feedback should start with consideration as to what kind of feedback you want to give. 

Appreciation to motivate and encourage > Thank you for the work you did 

Coaching to increase knowledge, skill, capacity, help grow, evolve, build relationships > You need to improve 

Evaluation to relay where the individual stands versus expectations > You are not meeting expectations, or we might have different expectations which need to beclarified 

Yet before I continue, allow me to share a technique that I was used with interesting results. 

I was once faced with a situation whereby I had to give three different people feedback on the same initiative that they were all involved in. The initiative was not an individual success for each of them. 

I proposed to each of them the opportunity to meet with me one-on-one if they wanted to and get feedback on the initiative. 

They all wanted to meet. 

With each staff member, I started the session by asking a very simple question.  

“What kind of feedback are you looking for?” 

Each response was different and spoken with gusto. This opened the door for a challenging yet constructive conversation in all three cases. 

On the flip side, imagine I came in with a prepared script of what I thought the feedback should be and if it differed from what they wanted and needed, they likely may have tuned me out immediately.  

Wouldn’t you? 

With this approach, I tried to look at the situation from their vantage point and reflected my approach to always try and start with empathy. 

By them telling me what they wanted and needed, I ensured the purpose of the feedback would be relevant to them and would facilitate a two-way exploration. 

If you choose a typical approach, getting back to giving feedback, we need to separate appreciation, coaching and evaluation. 

Imagine a scenario whereby you needed to give feedback after a failed initiative: 

“I want to share some insight with you on this process that you might not already know, please let me know if you already knew this.” 

“Do you think that was helpful?” 

The response will dictate what they might need, they might need coaching instead of evaluation.  

In general, people need all three types of responses yet at times, the person giving the response might be intending to give one type of feedback and the person receiving might need another type of feedback. 

By asking this type of question and listening to what they need, it helps me give the appropriate type of feedback. 

Moreover, when giving feedback, understand that what you mean to say and what is heard can be different. 

So, you can start by clarifying directly what your intentions are. 

“Let me describe what I am trying to say, and you let me know if it makes sense and please feel free to ask me questions for clarification.” 

Be specific, “here is what I noticed…” 

“What would you do differently if this happened again?” 

“If you want to know, here is what I would try if this happens again…” 

The exercise is not about making judgements and placing labels, give data and stick to the observable facts. 

“Your report was confusing.” 

Versus, “I noticed that you did not separate internal sale and external sales.”  

Avoid general comments like, "you are doing a good job."

Again, be specific, what did they do that entails "a good job?"

Or, find out how they did what they did and ask them to share it with others or encourage them to use the same technique again in the future in similar instances. This way, you are reinforcing the behaviour you are looking for and they are more likely too have a good result again.

A recurring comment that I have heard from those in leadership is that they lose empathy for those that behave badly especially when it impacts others. 

In such cases, it is still important to ask questions. 

For example, “I am concerned that you don’t realize the impact your behaviour is having on your team members." 

“None of us should be happy with the current team dynamic.” 

“Tell me what I am missing?” 

“That I am not seeing?” 

“That is being left out?” 

“Now what do we do to move in a positive direction?” 

Work to clarify a common goal and verbally discuss a mental model of the path forward. 

Yet, also discuss what might happen if the path is deviated from.

Lastly, I want to share another technique I have successfully used after giving an individual some constructive feedback. 

A few days later, as they were walking by my office, I asked them to come in and have a seat. 

I proposed another simple question, “how did I handle that feedback session a few days ago?” 

The individual was shocked that I asked such a question. They asked me, “you are asking me for my opinion on how you handled that conversation with me?” 

I said, “yes, it was not an easy conversation for me to have as I knew it might add to your stress level, which was not my intention.” 

The response, “no, we needed to have that conversation, I needed to hear that, thank you for talking to me.” 

In that moment, I felt that I had gained more credibility and built more trust with that individual and I also respected their mature response. 

I was not just giving feedback; I was pulling feedback from them. 

In giving feedback, don’t forget to pull feedback every chance you get.