“I have some feedback for you.”
Did your stomach just tighten? Adrenaline kicks up a notch. Your mind races to fill in the rest of the story.
Hearing or seeing these words may cause a high level of stress, whether you are the giver or receiver of feedback. Possibly we’ve forgotten that the intention of feedback is about growth, development, being more efficient, more productive, and maybe even happier.
>>Learn more at the webinar: What Artificial Intelligence Can’t Do, Human Intelligence Can
In this article, you’ll find some ways to get past the awkwardness and start feeling confident to deliver feedback that is thoughtful and clear.
Here are some stats to help you feel motivated that feedback is beneficial:
- 30% more engaged workers when managers give feedback
- 90% of millennials want frequent candid feedback (when done right)
Most people want to grow and be more efficient, productive, and happier, and would welcome feedback to get there. The challenge is that we’ve all had those ‘can we talk’ types of feedback that felt focused on our personality flaws rather than improvements on our processes.
When giving feedback, it’s not what you say; people get defensive because of why they think you’re saying it.
What’s the intention behind your words?
Are you too task focused?
Am I clear on my motive?
Think of this example:
Chris, who is on your team, has been doing what you feel is the minimum of what’s being asked. You have been waiting for their PowerPoint to be delivered, again. The past versions have lacked details and you’ve given notes that they need more facts. Of course, you also secretly hope they take your notes and delight you with the next version. This unfortunately does not happen. You’re now frustrated and decide it’s time for feedback.
What is my motive in giving feedback?
You’ve set yourself and Chris up for feedback failure if you let your frustrations be your guide. When that happens, your words, tone of voice, body language and choice of words are influenced by your emotion – frustration. This leads to an unconscious intention to possibly make Chris feel smaller.
Re-write the script:
Change your motive.
Set up the feedback for success. Your intention NOW is to help Chris grow, to focus on the future and not the past. Be curious, not assumptive.
How confident is Chris to take the lead on the PowerPoint?
Are they being cautious to not overstep?
Did they fully understand the directions?
Do they know how much freedom they have to be creative?
When you are clear on your intentions, you are answering their ‘Why are they giving me this feedback?’ inner talk. If Chris has feedback that is focused on a mutual purpose and keeps their goals in mind, they will be more open to receiving it now and in the future.
We tend to react to events emotionally first and then use logic to substantiate. If you set a safe climate to give feedback and make your why clear to the other person, their temperature lowers, their stomach untightens, and they can hear the logic behind the emotions.
As the book ‘Getting To Yes’ says: Separate the person from the problem. Picture sitting side by side with the person and looking at the problem together, as opposed to taking sides.
Set a precedent for feedback:
Try giving positive feedback without saying ‘but’.
92% of employees agree that when they’re recognized for a specific action, they’re more likely to take that action again in the future.
Giving genuine recognition is important feedback. It’s more than a high five, which is nice but short lived.
Try using this thought:
“Chris, you did…well, because …”
It’s the ‘because’ that’s important here, showing the effect their action had. You will also be releasing their oxytocin – the neurotransmitter linked to warm, fuzzy feelings and includes trust, empathy, positive memories, a bonding cue, and positive communication.
That’s what’s going to stick and make the behaviour repeatable.
In my upcoming HRDQ-U webinar, “What Artificial Intelligence Can’t Do, Human Intelligence Can”, we will take a closer look at communicating feedback that is clear on intention and see how you can help yourself and others build that awareness.
Start with a clear intention that is focused on the person’s growth, not just the task. Focus on the process, not their personality. Choose to listen with the intention of making the other person feel bigger, not smaller. When they feel heard and understood, they will hear your questions and statements. You’ve got thoughtful and actionable feedback.
Written by: Joel Silverstone