Third in a 3-Part Series on Feedback
Giving feedback is not a technical solution. Simply following the steps for delivering feedback will not suffice. One must also employ an adaptive process to manage emotions and behaviors.
The unusual approach for training around delivering feedback is focused on the giver – even though it is the receiver who determines the outcome. If the receiver is unable or unwilling to absorb the feedback it matters little how technically skilled the giver is. Data shows that reducing the fear and stress for the receiver has nearly three times more impact than improving the skills of the giver. How can you help the receiver? By creating a feedback-friendly environment and providing training for the receiver.
If feedback is delivered in a comfortable environment and at a pace the receiver is comfortable with
then the receiver is more likely to absorb the message and understand why it is beneficial.
Creating a Feedback Friendly Environment
Given that feedback is inherently uncomfortable and emotional, it makes sense that an environment where people feel safe to talk about emotions will alleviate some of that stress. Also, when feedback interactions happen often, they become less of a big, scary monster.
Steps for Creating Feedback Environment
- Be aware of positive and negative emotion attractors and the impact of both.
- Deliver reinforcing feedback at least 7 times more often than corrective feedback.
- In reinforcing feedback conversations, focus on a specific action, event, or behavior. Praising talent and ability in general terms can result in risk aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.
- Get to know each other as individuals. Build relationships.
- Occasionally talk about your own experience with negative emotions, embarrassments, disappointments, anger. Doing so will make others feel it is safe for them to feel those emotions.
- Have shorter, more frequent conversations. Several small conversations have a bigger impact than one big feedback session.
- Have informal conversations through weekly check-ins.
- Don’t call the conversation FEEDBACK. Never say I want to give you some feedback. Instead choose words that describe your intent; for example: I want to discuss progress or performance, describe the impact of your behavior, share positives, or open a dialogue.
- Institute the Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights (below).
Training for the Receiver of Feedback
The main objective of the receiver is to manage emotions and social threats so that they can hear what is being said. The adaptive process of giving good feedback involves allowing the receiver to control the pace of the feedback. Much like health professionals delivering stressful information, leaders should only give feedback as fast as the receiver can absorb it. Instituting the Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights will help with this process.
Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights (with sample script)
- You have a choice whether to receive the feedback at this time. “Now is not a good time. Can we do this later?”
- You can choose to suspend the feedback conversation if you are unable to continue. “I can’t hear any more right now. Can we finish this later?”
- You should restate and validate the reason for the conversation. “So the reason you are sharing this is because…?”
- You should test the giver’s assumptions. “This is what I am hearing… Is this what you are getting at?”
- You have the right to request some time to reflect and schedule a follow-up conversation before any decisions are made. “I need some time to think about this before I respond. Can we finish this conversation later?”
- You should reflect back on the conversation when your emotions have subsided. “Ok. (Deep breath.) What does this information mean for me… Can I use it to help me…?”
- You should share your insights when you reconvene, without being defensive. “I thought about what you said… It made me feel… This is what I think…”
Questions to Deepen Thinking
What is keeping you from changing your work environment to make it more feedback friendly?
What might happen if you allow a person to postpone or suspend a feedback conversation?
What are the consequences if you don’t allow the receiver to step away from the conversation until emotions subside?
Batista, E. (2013, December). Building a feedback-rich culture.
Batista, E. (2015, February). Make getting feedback less stressful. Harvard Business Review.
Beatty, R. (2015). Feedback: Navigating for individual and organizational effectiveness. Talent Quarterly(5), 51-56.
Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2005) Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion. Harvard Business School Press.
DiNisi, A. S. (2015). Does feedback really work? Talent Quarterly(5), 45-49.
Heen, S. &. (2015). Don’t blame HR if your performance evaluation system doesn’t work. Talent Quarterly(5), 21-24.
Rock, D. (2015). Time to rethink the concept of ‘feedback’. Talent Quarterly(5), 41-44.
Zenger, J. &. (2015). Feedback: The leadership conundrum. Talent Quarterly(5), 31-38.
Feedback: A Dirty Word?
The Two faces of Feedback: Reinforcing and Corrective
Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of Your Thank You
Build Empathy Into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference
Build Empathy Into Your Interactions Part 3: Deconstruct Your Conversations