We have all been in situations where we’ve had to give feedback. In the best cases it can strengthen relationships, provide growth opportunities and increase the efficiency and performance of your team.
So why are so many of us afraid of it?
When I seek feedback for myself, this is what I appreciate most: getting pointers or suggested improvements that I didn’t see myself and that I can own and act on.
Positive intent is key
Receiving feedback – in particular from your manager – is something that can generate anxiety. There’s a perception that critical feedback might be seen as casting judgment on your performance at work; however, well-thought feedback will be rich of actionable suggestions that will actually help you to perform better.
In European culture, open criticism is the norm, while in North America the “kiss-slap-kiss” approach of wrapping negative – or more critical – comments between two positive ones is more common. Combining both is how I now approach feedback:
Start with the value: Share what things you appreciated: “You structured xxx in an unprecedented way”. “You clearly showed the objectives”. “You took the time to tailor your solutions to our needs…”
Share what needs to be fixed: Use precise, fact-based examples or cases you have been working on where you see room for improvement. Remember: You’re wanting to resolve a problem together.
End with the expectations: Provide suggestions on how to avoid the issue again in the future: “I would encourage you to…” or “I would like to see you providing more…”
Before you take the plunge, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. Remember that giving feedback is all about trying to improve a situation. It’s constructive.
If you’re serious about providing a solution, always have the other person in mind and how what you’re sharing can be useful to them.
Change won’t happen overnight!
Consider these points before you start
1. Communicate your expectations clearly and early, ideally before giving any feedback. Execute your feedback against them.
2. Asking to give feedback can be the wrong start. Is the person in the right state of mind? How much work, pressure or other circumstances are you (or they) under and how might that affect how you present your thoughts?
3. Take a moment to identify the best time and place that works for them. Friday afternoons are generally not the best moments to give feedback. How about mornings when the mind is clear? Giving feedback in person is always recommended.
Of course, it does take courage to step up and have the belief that, thanks to your pointers, you can trigger improvements, but by doing so, you’re investing into someone else’s growth, which can be tremendously satisfying in itself.