“Self awareness leads to self development.” – Janna Cochola
There are 5 pieces of feedback I received that changed the trajectory of my career. They came from executives, mentors, peers, and friends. Without their input, I am confident I would be in a different place today. And though some of it was hard to hear, I am so grateful for the generosity, care, and courage they demonstrated by sharing that feedback with me.
Receiving straight, honest feedback can be some of the most influential conversations in our lives, but not everyone is good at providing it. The delivery method and emotion behind transformative feedback impacts how well its received and acted upon.
How well do you deliver feedback? Here are some common mistakes that get in the way of delivering transformative feedback.
- Being too vague
To avoid hurting the recipient’s feelings, you may wrap the feedback in so many niceties and vague descriptions that they can’t recognize the behavior that needs to change. By sugarcoating constructive feedback, the recipient may not grasp the seriousness or impact of their behavior, and therefore perceive that no change is necessary. Instead, use the Keep, Stop, Start method to provide structure that enables you to share positive feedback while also communicating what behaviors should be Stopped and Started.
- Fearing relationship damage
When you fear losing the relationship with the person, you may avoid giving necessary feedback or you may present it as though it comes from other people’s perspectives rather than your own. You will build a stronger relationship when you lean on the rapport you have established with the person, so they know you come from a place of love and concern for their success. Then deliver straight talk feedback to invest in their ultimate success.
Triangulating happens when you share your disappointment or disagreement with someone other than the person with whom you have the conflict. Perhaps you are hoping someone else will tell them about your frustration, so you won’t have to, or you may be simply be complaining without a commitment to drive change (which is time wasting). Eventually the news gets around that you have concerns with the person you’re disappointed with and now the situation is inflamed by the embarrassment, anger, or hurt they feel that you told other people about the issue before coming to them directly. It is best to approach the person directly. If you are unsure on how to approach them, go to a trusted source to ask for input on how to setup the conversation and then go deliver the feedback to the person who needs it most. That way, you are collaborating on a true and lasting solution and not triangulating.
- Delivering corrective feedback only
If you only provide feedback on actions and behaviors that need to be corrected, the recipient may interpret that they never do anything right and begin to feel they are failing in their responsibilities. Acknowledgement of a job well done is a form of feedback as well. People want to know their growth and accomplishments are also seen. Lack of acknowledgement can lead to discouragement and disengagement. Set a goal to provide someone positive feedback at least once a day. The goal will keep it front of mind and have you actively looking for opportunities.
- Being grouchy
Your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice convey even more than the words you use when delivering feedback. When you start a feedback session while grouchy, frustrated, exhausted…the recipient will likely become defensive. Instead of listening to the feedback, which may be valid, they will dismiss it as you being in a foul mood. Be 100% responsible for how you show up to the feedback discussion. Take time to be calm and unhook from any negative emotions. Try deep breathing to slow your blood pressure and heart rate. Generate a list of hopeful interpretations of why the person may have behaved the way they did, so you can remove your frustration and disappointment. Schedule a time to talk, as opposed to delivering the feedback in the heat of the moment. By delivering feedback in a calmer, more positive mindset, your recipient is more apt to hear your message and converse with you about a resolution.
- Blaming others
Delivering feedback where you place blame on or find fault with the person or others will put the person on the defensive, and could cause them to deflect their responsibility by blaming others as well. Rarely is a person solely at fault for a conflict. Instead, lead into the feedback discussion by taking personal responsibility for anything you could have done to change the course of events, being 100% responsible. By doing this, you model the approach you would like the recipient of the feedback to take.
- Feeling rushed and impersonal
Time constraints can leave you feeling like providing feedback is a nice-to-do versus a must-do. When you feel rushed, you may skip providing feedback or use impersonal means like review notes, emails, or Teams’ messages. Though these methods are immediate timesavers, the long-term development of the person is at risk. And when you’re not effective in delivering your message, you minimize your ability to increase team capacity by improving their skills. People need feedback to improve, and quality feedback takes place when there is two-way dialogue. In a conversation, you can guide your conflict partner in exploring their approach to the task and provide more feedback tailored to them. Keep in mind that people learn differently, so continually providing review notes may not be the most effective method for a person that doesn’t learn by reading. Identifying the learning style that works best for each of your team members allows you to communicate in their preferred style, not yours.
- Believing “It is not my place”
You may look at situations and feel it is not your place to provide feedback to a more senior team member, a peer, or staff on another team, but who says it isn’t. You may have a unique perspective, insight, or rapport that makes you a good person to deliver needed feedback. When in situations like this ask the recipient for permission to “share an observation” with them. When they agree to receiving the feedback, use our two techniques that work well for upward or side-stream feedback: “information sharing” and the “palms up” approach.
No matter which methods you use to deliver feedback, avoid broad generalization and the use of adjectives when sharing your observations, and convey your caring, compassionate intentions for sharing your feedback with the recipient.
Providing feedback is not about how you feel, but how you enable the other person to succeed. If you want to make a difference today, take the time to provide someone acknowledgement and feedback.
You can do this!