The Art of Giving Feedback

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Giving feedback can either make or break someone. It can increase performance or send it down the drain. Let’s face it getting feedback, when said in the wrong way, can send you down the rabbit hole never to return again.  

One CEO that I was consulting for made every meeting with their leadership team about what results they weren’t providing and what everyone’s deficit was regarding results. Unsurprisingly, the retention rate within their leadership team was low. Only 2% of the population are self generators; the rest of us need some acknowledgement to motivate us. Although this CEO thought the team needed to know this negative feedback to increase results it had the reverse effect, eroding at the experience of competency, creating a cycle of poor results.

A woman listening to constructive feedback

Constructive feedback is hard to hear in the best of cases. One thing that helps in swallowing the pill is if you have a connection or relationship with this person. Do you know them as “Joe” in the marketing department or “Joe” the person? People want to do more for people they feel care about them. If “Joe” feels like you have his back, he is more apt to hear the feedback in support of him rather than against him.    

How you phrase your feedback can make all the difference in how it is received. Saying “I value your opinions, please share them at our meetings” vs “Why don’t you say anything at our meetings” leaves someone feeling valued instead of inadequate. It turns what have been negative feedback into positive feedback. Saying you value someone’s opinions also builds their confidence and increases the likelihood of them contributing in the next meeting. The second way is more likely to leave someone feeling more self-conscious about sharing.

Two colleagues giving each other feedback

Another effective way to provide feedback is to engage the other person in the conversation. Ask them what are the areas that they see that need improvement and if they are facing any challenges. Follow with questions such as “How do you see yourself handling that” and “If I may make a suggestion.” This creates an open discussion with partnership and allows you to put in what you have to say in a non threatening supportive way.

Lastly, always end with acknowledgement of what is working. If all feedback is negative you will soon lose someone’s ear. When you acknowledge what one is doing that is working it reinforces your valuing them as well as partnership. It also leaves them on a high note. Happy employees are more productive.

Francesca Radbill has been involved with communication and leadership development work for over 35 years. She realized early on that she had a passion and gift in supporting individuals and teams in realizing their visions and maximizing potential. She has had the privilege of impacting thousands of people. Her methodology has a strong basis in ontology which focuses on how you are relating to your situation, in turn limiting your results. For fun she enjoys nature, long walks and spending time with family and friends.