Nov 26, 2014
Feedback is sometimes difficult to deliver when it is unpleasant, or makes either or both parties feel uncomfortable. For whatever reason, sometimes the skills are lacking to make the most of the feedback opportunity.
To this end, I often start planning my feedback with the end in mind. What is it I want to accomplish? Is my purpose to humiliate the other person – of course not! Is my purpose to fix an error or knowledge gap, or to bring about improvement? Better still, is my purpose to improve AND create an opportunity to develop a relationship with my subordinate, and create an opportunity for their successful personal development?
There are 3 points that you must consider when providing fabulous, fitting feedback - focus, factor in and follow up, which I will go into detail in this blog post.
FOCUS your language on what you do want to achieve. This involves three aspects:
- Using concrete words such as "reaching X target" rather than the more vague "needs to improve."
- Using positive language that emphasises what you DO want to see as an outcome, rather than focusing on what’s wrong, or not working. "Every aspect of your work needs to reflect the quality you showed in your introduction/analysis/figures” versus “This report is patchy with little attention to detail – you’re going to have to do better."
Using "I" language, which describes the issue from your perspective and avoids the word "you," which is usually interpreted as blaming language. When we are blamed for something, it will often provoke a defensive attitude and consequently we are less receptive to the feedback, and less likely to embrace changes that need to be made. For example, "I need you to arrive by 8:30 every morning" versus "You’re never on time."
FACTOR IN your subordinate’s involvement in resolving the issue. Consider the following:
- That they need to understand and acknowledge the problem,
- That you need to listen attentively to their contribution, and
- That you try to utilise their ideas for resolving the issue.
FOLLOW UP any action that is agreed, preferably in writing. Make sure that timelines and clear expectations are discussed, and that the subordinate has the tools to bring about successful improvement. By following up with the employee, three things are achieved:
- You show that you mean business and that the improvement matters.
- You indicate your support and willingness to see them succeed.
- You create an opportunity for positive feedback.