I have adopted a great belief from my husband; “feedback is the breakfast of champions”. At first, I didn’t “get it”, but I have learned that receiving feedback is a powerful gift for personal and professional growth and that giving feedback effectively, makes for more effective leadership and is key to powerful working relationships.
I did not always share this perspective. For many years I didn’t fully understand or appreciate this point of view because for me, feedback (a.k.a. criticism) was something I dreaded and avoided. I didn’t want to hear it and I definitely didn’t want to give it. However, I am pleased to report that I have moved from being a feedback avoider to recently being crowned the “Feedback Queen”.
Having benefited from giving and receiving powerful feedback, I now enjoy coaching leaders to do the same. The results are remarkable! These leaders experience less stress and conflict, their teams are more productive, their company morale strengthens, and their relationships at home with their spouse and children improve dramatically. Given the huge difference effective feedback can make, and given how often this issue comes up, it makes sense to share the secrets of effective feedback with you now…
Give feedback about behaviour, not your judgment of it
This is the first and most important consideration that makes or breaks effective feedback delivery. Often our decision to give feedback is triggered by feelings of anger, frustration, hurt or annoyance we feel towards another person. These feelings are triggered when someone does something and we judge or interpret the actions negatively. We make up a story about what the other person’s behaviour means and we react to it with defensiveness, annoyance, anger or even sarcasm. Giving effective feedback relies on our ability to separate the other person’s actions (facts) from our story (judgment) of the facts. With this clarity, our own heated emotions usually dissipate and we are better prepared to give effective feedback.
Decide when to give feedback
Give feedback any time someone says or does something that affects you, positively or negatively. Most of us avoid giving feedback and hate receiving it because it’s only offered when something negative happens. A great way to learn effective feedback delivery is to practice giving it during the good times! When your staff member says or does something that makes a difference in your day (i.e. takes initiative to send out some billings so you don’t have to), give feedback (according the steps listed below). Tell that person what a difference his actions made for you.
Use feedback to create mutual understanding
Giving effective feedback is not about seeking agreement from another person, it’s about helping someone hear what we have to say without him defending himself, dismissing the information or making a counter-attack. Our emphasis is on understanding each other better. Remember, we all wander around the world, experiencing it from our own perspective. We forget that we all have different and unique ways of experiencing situations and events. Giving feedback helps others see better how their words and actions affect the people around them, which uncovers blind spots and helps them decide whether or not they want to change their behaviour.
Steps for being a feedback Queen (or King):
Step 1: Ask permission
No matter what your relationship is with the feedback recipient, sincerely ask if you may, “offer and idea”, “thank you for something” or “clear an issue”. Asking permission demonstrates respect for the other person and paves the way for their openness to hearing what you have to say.
Step 2: Share your intention for the feedback
Why are you offering this feedback? Is your intention to strengthen the relationship? Do you need to get an issue off your chest that is holding you back from doing business with this person? Do you want to help someone improve his performance? Being clear about our intention, and sharing this, increases
our chances us success and continues to keep the recipient open to hearing it.
Step 3: Describe the facts
Facts are words said and/or behaviours demonstrated (not our judgment of them). Spoken and written words that can be quoted are facts. Actions that could be videotaped are facts (i.e. when you sent the invoicing out without being asked). Describing the facts of the situation helps the recipient understand specifically and clearly what the feedback is referring to. By eliminating our judgment of the facts, emotion is removed and we reduce the likelihood of provoking defensiveness.
Step 4: Describe your feelings or story about the facts
Explain how the other person’s words or actions affected you or the story or judgment you made up about their behaviour. It’s important to stay accountable, take ownership and use I-language (this will help decrease defensiveness and maintain receptivity in the listener). For example, we might say to a business partner, “when you told me the other day that you made this decision without talking to me, I felt disregarded. Making these kinds of decisions without me feels disrespectful and does not feel collaborative to me”. The recipient of this feedback might not like hearing it, but chances are he will be more open to hearing the message and willing to stay engaged to solve the problem.
Are you ready to step up your leadership?
Feedback is a tremendous gift we can learn to give others. Creativity, connection, collaboration, productivity, innovation, and problem solving all improve when companies give and seek out meaningful feedback. And these improvements foster accelerated progress in business and in life. I challenge you to become the Feedback Queen or King in your business!
To Step Up your leadership abilities, call Laura Watson at: 877-669-8684 for a free coaching consult. You can also email her: Laura@VentureCoaching.ca
Laura Watson, ACC, MSW is President of Venture Coaching Inc., and was a finalist for the 2010 Canadian Coach of the Year Award. Venture Coaching provides Business Coaching , and Life and Leadership coaching programs to entrepreneurs so they create success without sacrifice! Venture Coaching provides the tools, process and support to accelerate your business and personal growth.