Do’s and Dont’s when giving feedback – Camelia Paduraru, Master Trainer NLP, Performance Coach and Founder CraftingMinds
The ability to provide good feedback is a mark of a good leader, and the openness to receive feedback is a mark of a growth oriented mind set. Good feedback is vital in efficient learning and professional growth. Acquiring new competencies is massively accelerated when we get good feedback and we incorporate it quickly. Relationships breathe and evolve when we speak our minds effectively. The problem is that we don’t find easy to receive, nor to give feedback.
When we receive feedback, we often tend to become defensive, to explain ourselves, to dissociate or force a smile while we grumble an absent yeah, I see after we’ve long left the experience. We do it to avoid discomfort and pain, especially when the one giving us feedback doesn’t demonstrate the most exquisite abilities. The problem, while we do this, is that also we protect ourselves against learning and the opportunity to better ourselves.
When it comes to giving feedback, we either communicate it with negative emotions or in a way that’s perceived offensive, we either hold back because we’re afraid to hurt the other person or cause conflict, thus hiding our own fear of feeling hurt or rejected, and preferring to accumulate frustration and resentment instead. In this case, we block our authenticity, our leadership abilities, and the opportunity to catalyse other people’s growth.
Giving good feedback is an art worth mastering not only in our professional endeavours, but in every area of life. Everything we say, the way we say it, our words, our tonality, our facial expressions, our body language, and our intention have an incredible power when giving feedback, and in our communication in general. Let’s see some do’s and dont’s to help us along the way.
- Right time, right place. Practice the state of presence so you are aware if the person is open to receive feedback. While praise can be well received and even desirable in public, areas of improvement are best to be communicated privately.
- Feedback needs to be asked for and received, not imposed. Feedback works best when required by the person receiving it. If there is no habit of asking for feedback, then ask for permission. (Eg: May I give you a suggestion? I noticed a few things about the way you’re performing, would you like me to share them with you? Can I give you a piece of feedback?) Give them the chance to say yes, and they’ll be a lot more open to what you have to say.
- Good feedback takes into account the needs of both the person giving it and the one receiving it. While feedback which is meant to help us vent can be justified in certain situations, it usually fails to be constructive or efficient. Especially true if doesn’t take into account the other person’s feelings and therefore it tends to be destructive, reduce communication, and provide nothing useful to the other person.
- Be sure to make the difference between feedback, criticism and value judgements. Good feedback does not label people based on their behaviours (Eg: you’re demotivated, you don’t care enough, you are chaotic), does not utilize universal quantifiers (Eg: you never…, you always…), and does not make value judgements (Eg: it is good/ not good to…). Good feedback focuses on what can be done to improve behaviours, performance, and results. It is expected that the person receiving it will do something about it.(Eg:It looks like your energy levels are not at their highest lately, let’s see what challenge would get you fired up again or It looks like you have a lot going on lately, is there anything we could do to help you organize your tasks?)
- Use the feedback sandwich. Start with what they did good, then provide one or more areas of improvement, and end with an overall positive statement about the person you’re giving feedback to. Avoid the use of the word but and verbs in past tense. Use the word and and verbs in present or future tense. (Eg: I appreciate the fact that you’re very prompt in answering text messages, AND if I call you, it means that the issue needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. Please pick up the phone. Please return the call as soon as you can. It would make an important difference in our communication.)
- Take into account the fact that any behaviour can be useful in a certain context. Provide them with the positive sides of the behaviour they’re doing, then give suggestions for improving it. (Eg: We appreciate your blunt way of speaking your mind because we know that with you, what we see is what we get. Just pay attention to your voice tonality because sometimes it can come across as rude, and we know that’s not your intention.)
- Tell them what to do, not what not to do. Even if not immediately obvious, Please be here on time produces very different results than Stop being late. Tell them what to do. Example: I suggest that you realistically evaluate your capabilities and only say yes to what you know for sure you can accomplish instead of don’t take on responsibilities you’re not sure you can complete.
- Be specific, not general. Being told that you were engaged or detached, irrational or cold, sensitive or insensitive in a certain context won’t be very helpful. These attributes are so general that while it’s so easy find truth in them, they don’t provide any practical application. (Eg: instead of saying Our communication needs improvement, say what about it specifically. I need you to spend time giving me more details when we’re starting a project, otherwise I won’t know how to proceed.)
- Take responsibility for what you’re saying, don’t transfer it to other instances like others, the procedures, the organizational culture.
- Communicate your feelings freely if appropriate, don’t mask them under layers of sarcasm, distortion or power games. (Eg: It frustrates me when I try to say something, and you finish my sentences instead of things like You’re trying to see how far you can go with this or You need to be even with the whole world.)
- Be as neutral as possible from an emotional standpoint.
This last one is easier said than done, I know. The good news is that now we have simple practical tools aimed to teach us how to be in charge of our emotions, our thinking, our words, our communication, and therefore our results. Explore #NLP!
Meanwhile, contemplate this: “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Tim Ferris