Delivering feedback isn’t just a challenge managers and supervisors face, but anyone who wants to tell another person that he or she needs to change. The challenge for most people is that they don’t want to hurt, disappoint, shock or anger the person they are informing.
Out of their own fear, most people tend to stumble through such an effort or avoid providing feedback altogether. They might come across as unclear, rambling, incomplete or abrupt in their delivery. If they evade giving feedback, it might show its head elsewhere as tension, passive aggression or distrusting behaviors. It ends up that both parties find the interaction (or lack of interaction) painful or unsettling. No wonder it’s something so many of us avoid!
But giving feedback can be transformative. Done well, it can improve rapport and promote better workplace relations. I have found the following step-by-step techniques to be a truly functional way of delivering feedback.
Preparing To Offer Your Feedback
Before you start the conversation, prepare yourself for the most constructive interaction possible by following these steps.
1. Do your homework. Giving useful feedback requires an understanding of the big picture. So, before giving criticism on someone’s time management, for example, find out what is on his or her plate. Try to recognize what they believe to be the priorities and why, so that you can come from a place of understanding.
2. Find the upside for them.You may be about to deliver a blow, but what could be the good in this for the person you’re giving feedback to? For example, if a manager is seen by peers as underperforming, the upside could be that others believe in his or her potential. It’s always helpful to deliver some positive with what could be perceived as negative.
3. Set up a meeting.Sharing feedback is a conversation, not a quick, one-sided announcement. And definitely do not give feedback in an email, voicemail or text message. Schedule time for you and the other person to speak one on one. Tell them (generally) what the conversation will be about. For example, “Let’s sit down to discuss your work with our team.” Make sure to schedule the meeting for at least 30 minutes. This signifies the importance of the meeting, promotes the conversational element of it, and leaves room for questions.
Ensuring The Conversation Goes Smoothly
Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to sit down and give your feedback. To avoid further conflict, walk in with a plan to conscientiously discuss the matter at hand. Follow these steps for a successful, productive interaction.
1.Begin with the facts and big picture. When the meeting begins, don’t delay. Explain why you are meeting with them, lay out what the concerns or problems are, and give them the positive (the “upside”) to the feedback. Describe it as such, and keep this portion succinct.
2. Allow them to respond. It’s natural for them to be defensive; let them speak their peace. Listen attentively, and don’t jump in or interrupt to drive home your point. This is their chance to share their side. If things veer off course, it’s OK to remind them of the initial statements of fact and the “upside” to it.
3.Work toward solutions together.After the concerns are clear, ask them for their ideas and thoughts on improving the situation. Be encouraging and uplifting. If they are stuck or if you have ideas, wait for them to finish then ask permission to share your own thoughts for improving the situation. When possible, weave these ideas with the “upside” you’ve uncovered.
Ending The Conversation And Moving Forward Optimistically
To avoid hurt feelings or lingering resentment, it’s important to end the conversation on an authentic upswing.
1. Demonstrate your support.Once a plan for change has been decided, it’s important to demonstrate your support by describing what you will be doing to help. Communicate how you want to be there to help in any way you can.
2. Show gratitude. Thank them sincerely for meeting with you and working on this together.
We all know that change is hard. The feedback meeting is only the first step in promoting and fostering improvements. Be sure to check in on the situation regularly. Follow up with the recipient of the feedback and with those who may be aware of any changes that are occurring.