It seems like a simple communication point but many of us forget to share the motivations behind our actions. As a result, we can leave people scratching their heads.
Think about what grade you’d give yourself on how well you give employees feedback. Many of the executives I work with are brutally honest and give themselves an F. They don’t make giving feedback a standard part of meetings and discussions; they give general (“good job!”) versus specific feedback (“Here’s what you did extremely well on this project….”); they often don’t give feedback at all or wait too long to give feedback; and they would have a hard time giving their boss feedback.
The truth is most of us would be significantly more effective at work if we gave others feedback sooner and more regularly. It helps all of us work better. It helps us to recognize blind spots, know what to keep doing (and when to think about changing specific behaviors), and it helps build relationships with those who give us the gift of their advice.
The Biggest Barrier is Often Ourselves
Although we all might like to blame the challenges of giving feedback on external circumstances, the biggest barrier to giving feedback is often ourselves. It is difficult for most of us to offer criticism when we are looking someone in the eye. We’re concerned about how a person will react. At the same time, we want to minimize conflict or protect our ego. Both lead to postponing the conversation or not having it at all.#Feedback is best given within a face-to-face context, as it is most likely to be well received and acted upon.
Feedback is best given within a face-to-face context, as it is most likely to be well received and acted upon. When sitting down with an employee in person, we are better able to respond, coach, and teach to his or her defensiveness, to mitigate criticism with recognition of achievements, and to give someone time to absorb the message. There is simply no substitute for personal interaction when it comes to imparting honest feedback.
Timing Matters When Giving Feedback
When you’re ready to give feedback, timing matters. First, choose a time when you are at your best, and in the right frame of mind, so that there’s the greatest chance that your comments will be heard, understood, and appreciated in the spirit that they’re meant. Your credibility as a leader is at stake.
Once you’re ready, ask the other person if they’re open to hearing what you have to say. If so, proceed. If not, schedule a follow-up. Either way, offering a choice gets you off on the right foot (but don’t let them off the hook if they’re not ready; be persistent and let them know that you have an important message for them that affects how they work).
Avoid emotionally charged language or judgments, and just state the facts as they are:
“I need to give you feedback…, here’s my intention…, here’s what I saw and the consequence…, here’s what I’d prefer to see…, how do you feel?”
What opportunities for feedback haven’t you addressed yet that would be helpful to someone else?
Whether it’s to one person, a group or an organization—download this template to start mapping out your communication today!