Feedback is not easy for most people. Learning to give it constructively and receive it gracefully are two skills that can make difficult situations much less so. Getting in the habit of asking for feedback is also important. You should be soliciting feedback from your direct reports, or letting them know that you are interested in hearing what they have to say.
Giving constructive feedback takes some thought. You must consider the impact to the person. It seems simple but the words used, the venue and time chosen, and event the topic of feedback will all make a difference in how it is received.
- Know your audience –Some people would be happier to have you praise them privately. If you are giving good feedback be aware of the person’s preference for being praised publically.
- Give notice – For negative feedback try to give the person time to get ready to talk about it. If you have regular meetings tell them you want to talk about the issue or project during the meeting, if not set something up specific to the topic.
- Plan your words – Remember to separate the tasks, actions, or project from the person. Be sure you will hit all the essential points and be specific. Give examples of what a good job looks like or what has been done well.
Receiving negative feedback gracefully can be even more difficult. No one likes being told their efforts have been for not, or that their work must be redone. There is a lot to learn from how others see us and welcoming feedback can help you redirect your efforts and be more successful.
- Listen for the meaning – Not everyone is good at communicating directly. Difficult conversations sometimes inspire people to tap dance around an issue. Listen for the problem, try to be task specific, and ask for suggestions on how to make a correction.
- Ask questions –General feedback is usually only a mask for the problem, you need to learn the specifics so you can make a change.
- Agree on expectations – It is easier for many people to be indirect. They get to leave the conversation feeling like they gave you the necessary feedback but you might be left wondering what it is they want. Ask what the person needs or expects from you.
Cultivating truth tellers among your team and being willing to play the role for others is a useful way to actively gauge how effective a leader you are. Learning to give and receive useful feedback takes trust and practice. The benefits of knowing where you stand with your team, being able to make meaningful changes mid-project, and building understanding are so valuable. Much more so than the temporary comfort of avoiding an awkward conversation.
Do you have truth tellers on your team? Do you have any tips for giving good feedback?