In last month’s newsletter, we looked at the first of two high performance leadership skills essential to becoming the communicator your team wants you to be. If you missed it, head here. This month, we’ll continue where we left off.

High Performance Leadership Skill #2:
Effective Feedback

Giving and getting feedback is one of the most important skills any leader can have, and one of the rarest skills found among those individuals at upper leadership levels. It’s rare because some leaders have never actually learned the skill. Some people worry that trying to offer feedback will cause the situation to get worse, rather than make it better.

Perhaps surprisingly though, feedback can actually strengthen a relationship, because knowing that another person is going to tell it to you straight creates and builds trust. What’s more, trying to ignore bad behaviors means that that they will most likely only continue. Over time, those behaviors will likely bother you even more, creating resentment or a deteriorating work environment. Taking the risk of providing feedback shows the other person that you are invested in the relationship and willing to take the time to help fix the issue.

There is an art to giving effective feedback. When done so well, it minimizes defensiveness and allows people to move more quickly into problem solving.

Here are the 7 pillars of effective feedback.

1. Consider The Readiness Of The Recipient

It is most useful when the recipient has solicited the information rather than being imposed on the recipient. In the absence of solicitation, feedback should be given at a time when the receiver appears to be in a condition of readiness to accept it.

An example: “James, I want to speak with you about your behaviors during our supervisory meetings. Is now a good time to talk? Or, when can we set this up where we would have some uninterrupted time?”

2. It Is Descriptive Rather Than Evaluative

The feedback should be descriptive of what the receiver is doing and of the effects the behaviors are having -–not threatening or judgmental about what he/she is as a person.

Focus and comment on behavior: Actions that one sees/observes, rather than motivations or attitudes.

Not Descriptive: “Ron, I don’t think you’re very interested in our supervisory meetings.”* (*This is not descriptive, because Ron can easily say that of course he’s interested, and you just didn’t notice it).

Behavioral Description: “Ron, I believe you’ve been physically present but did not speak or nod or contribute during the past three supervisory meetings.”

3. Use an I-Message Format

This should describe the sender’s own personal reaction and include the sender’s real feelings about the behavior. This gives the recipient a clear picture of both the impact on the sender—and the impact on the work product, the team, or the customer.

Ron, “I’ve noticed during the past three Supervisors Meetings that you didn’t speak, nod or contribute during the whole meeting. This is frustrating for me, because I need you to act as a role model for others in the room. If you don’t speak, they won’t feel the need to offer their opinions either, and we lose the benefit of everyone getting together.”

If you’re interested in a few more examples of this 4-step framework for giving feedback, head here.

4. It Is Immediate

It comes as soon as is appropriate after the behavior and provides good, clear examples of the person’s behavior.

5. It Is Directed Toward Behavior That The Receiver Can Do Something About

Frustration only increases when a person is reminded of some shortcoming over which he/she has no control.

6. Don’t Overload With Too Much At Once

Provide an amount of information which the person can absorb and deal with. Don’t store up a lot of feelings and then surprise the person by dumping all the information at once.

7. Avoid Blaming, Loaded, Sarcastic, Or Broadly General Terms

Examples of what to avoid:

“This never would have happened if you had listened to me!”
“You never want to take on anything difficult.”
“Don’t you think it would have been smarter to warn me that we were going over budget?”

Seeking and giving feedback and raising your level of listening skill are all vital if you are to develop as a leader and a person. These two examples of ways to improve your communication—and your relationships—will ensure that your interpersonal relationships stay strong, which ultimately serves both your customers and your company.
I’d love to hear about any positive or challenging experiences you’ve had with giving (or receiving) feedback.

Had a feedback situation that didn’t go as well as you’d like and want to get my take on it? Please reply or give me a call to discuss.

Also, if you really need to deliver some feedback soon to someone at work, get in touch and we can discuss or role play the situation.

Wishing you all the best!