Giving Effective Feedback That Invites Change
Whether in the business or personal world, feedback is something we will all encounter. And I’m sure that we’ve all encountered both good feedback that stirred up change within us and feedback that sent us so far into the dumps we couldn’t even think about change. Especially as leaders, learning to give effective feedback is incredibly important!
What Makes Bad Feedback?
It is very common for leaders and managers to dislike giving feedback and it is generally because the response to their feedback is not as they would wish, or they haven’t had good experiences with feedback before. So, what constitutes bad feedback? The first factor is high emotion on both sides, the person giving the feedback and the person receiving the feedback. Another factor is that feedback is focused on the character rather than the behaviour. When the character of someone becomes the point of focus, the person receiving the feedback can often feel attacked, and then we end up overly emotionally involved.
Broadness or a lack of clarity around what needs to change can cause confusion and then lead to no change at all, rendering the feedback useless. Little things like tone of voice, body language, environment and language choices can also all affect how feedback is taken. Giving feedback isn’t easy for anyone, but if you can spend time refining how you give feedback to ensure that when you give it, the intended result occurs, that will change the game!
Bad feedback can often threaten the psychological safety of the individual receiving the critique and this is often where emotions become involved. We have to learn to give feedback that follows the conventions of effective feedback so that we aren’t threatening the psychological safety of our employees while showing them that we value their input and their position within the business.
Is Now a Good Time?
There is always a time and a place for feedback, and an emotionally and situationally aware leader will be clued into what the time and place are. There are many wrong reasons to give feedback, but I want to highlight a few. Some wrong reasons to give feedback are to defend your own behaviour, to condemn or demoralise another, because you’re in a bad mood, or to make yourself appear superior or powerful.
The right reasons to give feedback are commitment and concern for others, to fulfil a sense of responsibility, to guide or mentor another, or to support or enhance another. This may sound basic, but it is imperative that feedback comes from the right place or else it becomes harmful. It is important that before you give your input, you check yourself. Ask yourself ‘is now a good time?’ and ‘am I coming from the right place?’.
By keeping yourself in check, you protect another individual from becoming a victim of your own mood or poor awareness. Ensure that you have a clear purpose for your feedback, and make sure that purpose is constructive. If it isn’t, hold off on giving the input until the purpose is clear and your intention is correct.
The Essential Components of Effective Feedback
What constitutes good feedback? Effective feedback focuses on the behaviour, not the character. We briefly touched on the point that bad feedback feels like an attack on the person’s character, so effective feedback ensures that the focus is on the behaviour. Effective feedback is also timely. Don’t leave 10 weeks between the thing that needs attention and giving feedback.
Effective feedback is future-focused. Although what you’re giving feedback on occurred in the past, you need to look forward, because they can’t change what occurred, but they can change what happens in the future. Keep looking forward and encourage them to do the same. Effective feedback can be both positive feedback and negative. It is possible to give negative feedback effectively, and the same can be done with positive feedback.
Effective feedback asks questions. People have their own experiences as they move through the world. What you have been through will change how you see the world and the same for me. We experience the world differently; we have different perspectives about what is right and wrong. Ask questions such as ‘how do you see this situation?’, ‘what do you think worked, and what would you change for next time?’, or ‘what lead up to your decision?’. These questions engage their personal perspective and can give you insight into how they see the situation from their point of view.
Everyone Can Give Feedback. Can You Give It Effectively?
Anyone is capable of giving feedback, but not everyone is capable of giving effective feedback that brings about change in its wake. This is the kind of feedback we want to be giving! Take some time to assess how you’ve been giving feedback and if it is effective or if it is bad feedback that needs some attention. How you give feedback can either help or hinder how someone sees your leadership.
Hey! You’re Biased! – #33 In-Group Bias
In-group bias is the tendency for people to give preferential treatment to those who belong to the same group that they do. This bias not only shows up in well-acquainted groups but also in groups who are randomly selected. For example, at your work, you find out that John goes for the same footy team as you. Jane goes for a different team. You are closer to John, even though you and Jane have much more in common outside of sports teams. This is an interesting bias; I wonder if you can spot it in your world.
Hedges, K. (2014). Why You May Be Terrible at Giving Feedback. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/07/09/why-you-may-be-terrible-at-giving-feedback/?sh=3ab6f7ee6ed5
MacKay, J. (2017). The 7 essential qualities of effective feedback. Zapier. https://zapier.com/blog/how-to-give-effective-feedback/
Phoel, C. (2009). Feedback that works. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2009/04/feedback-that-works#:~:text=Be%20specific%20about%20what%20the,the%20team%2C%20or%20the%20business.