I must admit that I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘constructive’ feedback more than I’d like to admit and I used to dread those situations. I’d start to recognise a pattern where, out of the blue, I’d receive an email requesting me to attend a 30 minute meeting with the boss and I knew I’d done something wrong. These days I recognise the importance of receiving feedback and now I even seek it out because without feedback we simply can’t grow. Feedback systems are all around us…in nature, in our environment, and even how we engage with other people! For example, if I eat too much unhealthy food during a day I’m going to feel like rubbish – that’s a natural feedback system right there! Feedback is just a natural part of life and we can use it to our advantage…we can use it to grow and to achieve excellence in whatever we do!
We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve ~ Bill Gates
Don’t shy away from feedback, seek it out! Here’s a simple approach to use for yourself, “So, out of one to ten, how am I doing?” “Well, I’d say you’re doing about a seven.” “Great! Thank you…so what do I need to be doing to make that a ten?” Sometimes we might think we’re rockin’ it but might also lack a little awareness around how we’re being in some situations therefore specifics and examples are always good to explore so the next time you’re in that situation you can do something differently. Here’s a question for you: What do you say when someone offers you less than appealing feedback? Some people will argue the point, they’ll try to explain away the situation. “No, you don’t understand,” they’ll say or worse! “No, you’re wrong!” After a couple of times of hearing this response it encourages people not to give you feedback which is the worst situation to be in. To developmental feedback simply say, “Thank you, I appreciate you sharing that with me.” On the flip side, how do you respond to someone who give you positive feedback? Most people will brush it off or downplay it…please don’t do this, simply say, “Thank you, I appreciate that.” It’s that simple.
Giving feedback to others, especially constructive feedback, can be uncomfortable for some. Generally only because we haven’t been exposed to a few handy techniques for delivering it. There are, of course, many ways to give feedback and the three that I like to use are:
1. The feedback sandwich. Often used in Toastmasters, this approach is delivered in the form of a sandwich that might go sometime like this, “I really liked the way you projected your voice throughout your presentation. What I’d like to see more of is perhaps pausing for a breadth at key times during your speech. Overall, I thought it was a well crafted presentation and you delivered it very well.” In this example, even in the constructive feedback the language is quite ‘soft’ and may feel less like a criticism.
2. The ‘laying it on the table’ approach. Often times people have become immune to the feedback sandwich because it’s been overused. Nine times out of 10 people are generally hanging out for the constructive part and are focusing less on hearing the positive part of the feedback, so it goes unheard. Therefore, the simple approach of saying to someone, “I’ve got some good feedback that I’d like to share with you and there’s also some development feedback you might be interested in, which would you like to hear first?” This approach gives the person the option to choose and both parts of the feedback are likely to be heard.
3. The last approach that I like to use might be a little trickier to get your head around and takes some thought before having the conversation. It’s goes a little like this:
The above diagram is the most common approach to giving feedback and on the surface it’s a pretty good approach – let’s look at how this can be improved upon.
What’s missing from the chain? That’s right! The problem is never mentioned. Most people will recognise when they’ve messed up and in most situations it’s not at all necessary to mention the problem but to simply remind them about the outcome and to make the suggestion to help them to get there.
Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill ~ Buddha
The trick to mastering any new skill is practice, practice, practice! If you’re learning something new go out and give it a go…expect to make mistakes (it’s a natural feedback cycle). And making those mistakes, expect to get better in the process. Why not commit to giving feedback to a colleague over the next couple of weeks as a mini goal? It can be around something that you like that they’re doing or it can be around something you’d like to see them do differently.
If you’d like to know more about how to give effective feedback or how to use it to accelerate your own growth, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.