Growth requires feedback.
Successful feedback is turning on the lights.
Before feedback, there’s stumbling in darkness, but clarity produces confidence after successful feedback.
Confidence enables action.
What stops us giving feedback?
There are many barriers we can put up to stop us from giving feedback to others, even if we know in theory how to do it.
- If I wait long enough, the situation will resolve itself so I do not have to get involved
- Since I do not like to receive feedback I can’t imagine anyone else would, so I stay keep quiet
- I give feedback indirectly by using sarcasm and jokes
- There just never seems to be the right time to give feedback and I keep putting it off
- It takes too much time to provide feedback effectively. I’d rather pick up the slack than take the time to do it
- No one wants to hurt a colleague. – A lot of people believe that they may hurt someone if they share a strong different point of view or critical feedback
- I’m unsure of how the other person is going to respond to my feedback so I avoid giving it
- I’m not perfect so who am I to judge anyone else’s behaviour?
- If I give my boss any negative feedback it may be used against me in my next 1:1 performance conversation
- I’ve let the situation go on for too long now and I am so angry I will probably blow up and mishandle the situation
- You don’t want to mess with the culture – When a culture is known for its niceness, giving feedback could rock the boat….
Feedback phobia is widespread, so you are not alone if you can identify with statements in this list above.
But people want feedback!
Research shows people want feedback and prefer it to be constructive, which is what we sometimes avoid giving.
The graph below shows on average the degree to which the participants tend to avoid or prefer giving/receiving positive and corrective feedback.
Bit of a paradox.
Food for thought
The Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman research also shows the ideal ratio of praise to criticism is 6:1—the highest-performing teams were six positive comments for every negative one.
Getting the ratio of positive to negative feedback right is important. What made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams, according to Zenger and Folkman, was the ratio of positive comments.
This isn’t the same as “sugar coating” or softening the message.
It’s about achieving the right balance.
Knowing the importance of giving and receiving feedback is one thing.
However, it’s another thing to know whether you do it well
The IBICC feedback model is a great tool to help you create great feedback conversations.
And yes, they are just conversations!
The first step in this feedback model is to share your intention and to be really transparent about why you want to have the conversation. But before you do so, it’s a good idea to have thought through whether your intention is good.
Think about your own mindset – are you prepared to be curious? Are you going to be fully present? Have you thought about whether this is the right time to give the feedback?
Once you’ve established your intent is clean, the first thing to do is to state the intention for your feedback conversation to get started. Avoid easing into the conversation. Get straight to the point. Most people appreciate getting bad news or constructive criticism in an upfront, straightforward manner.
A 2014 survey by Zenger and Folkman found that 72% of respondents thought their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback. That number rose to 92% when the caveat of “if delivered appropriately” was added.
A sugar-coated message risks an employee not even realising that their manager is actually being critical of their performance.
Good intentions don’t compensate for poor execution when it comes to negative feedback.
If done well, negative feedback is a gift.
If done poorly, it devalues, demotivates, and discourages.
The next step is to describe the behaviour you are giving the feedback on.
You must focus on observable behaviours rather than the recipient’s personality traits, identity or judging their values.
Describe an example of impact and how to include emotional impacts as well as task-related impact. Ask questions like “What impact did X have on the customer when you said Y?”
Being curious often gets missed.
Our impressions of a situation can be misinterpreted, so it’s important we ‘test’ any assumptions we may have made.
What ‘meaning’ have we attached to a situation? When someone ignores us, we may attach the meaning they don’t like us, but that may not be the case. It’s important to test any assumptions you have made and be curious as to the circumstances that might have caused the behaviour in the first place.
We have to remember that as managers, the extent to which someone acts on feedback is dependent on whether they make a choice to do so.
This all depends on whether or not they have heard what you are saying.
We can’t tell people to change, we can only point out the impact of behaviour and then it is down to them to choose to change.
Give it a go
Like learning any new skill, giving feedback may be uncomfortable at first and you will do it unskilfully. We learn by trying, getting it wrong, and then trying again.
Since feedback involves other people, there will more than likely be a few misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or other kinds of conflict.
Don’t expect yourself to skip this part of your learning or for this to feel natural or easy. Neither will happen. Your discomfort and mistakes mean you’re on the right path to perfect your feedback skill.
Making mistakes is natural. Not repairing any damage, you may cause is unkind. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologise.
If you are misunderstood, own your part in the confusion, explain your intent and apologise for any upset the confusion caused.
Never feed someone a “shit sandwich.”
Don’t bookend your critique with compliments.
It sounds insincere and risks diluting your message.
Instead, separate your negative commentary from your praise, and don’t hedge.