Feedback is important, both to give and to get. Otherwise, how do you know if you have done something well, or could have done it even better?
To encourage feedback, you need to reduce the fear and anxiety that commonly accompanies it. To do this, make it part of what you and your colleagues do on a regular basis. This takes dedication and perseverance.
To make feedback commonplace, you need to seek it out and be a role model. If you can’t do it, how can you expect others to? By seeking out feedback, you not only encourage it but also make it easier for you to give it as well. You are now on the way to embedding it in the day-to-day.
One way to seek feedback is to acknowledge your own areas for improvement. Use open ended questions such as “I am working on improving my delegation skills. Could you suggest areas where I can hand over more effectively?”
When you get feedback make sure you:
- Thank the giver as they have taken a risk in giving the feedback
- Acknowledge what you will work on
- Anchor your response on your learning from the feedback
- Ask them if you can check in with them for an update on how they think you are going
Feedback is too often only done in a structured setting such as an annual or six-monthly performance review. Feedback should occur much more frequently.
- Is timely and contextual regarding the observed behaviour and therefore is much more meaningful
- Allows for instant modification, refinement, and recalibration
- Enables a regular “check in” of progress
- Due to its informal nature is less daunting
- Provides the groundwork for the more formal and structured feedback sessions
More formalised, scheduled feedback is also important and is more effective if feedback has been given in between the structured sessions.
- No surprises, thereby leading to a more productive discussion
- The groundwork is done so it is easier to tie all the feedback together
- Goals can more easily be reset and fine tuned
The key to good feedback is that it is mutually beneficial. The receiver benefits as they know what they can work on, and the giver benefits as they have helped a colleague and improved the team’s performance.
Whenever you are considering giving feedback remember the following:
- Public praise is great as it shows everyone what “good” looks like
- Constructive criticism should always be done in private
- Don’t rush into it; plan it as it can be emotionally charged
- Keep it about the issue or behaviour not about the person
- Share observations from your point of view, do not speak for others
- Respect and monitor the recipient’s feelings; watch and modify your approach if necessary, particularly if there is a power imbalance
- NEVER say “don’t take this personally” or “it's just business”
- Be clear, unambiguous and fact based
- Always discuss specific actions and how they will be followed up
- Never forget the purpose is to improve the situation or a person’s performance – it’s not about being right
Hopefully these tips will help you and your colleagues engage in more open feedback. This will lead to real and lasting change, as well as build stronger and deeper working relationships.
People tend not to remember what you said or did but they always remember how you made them feel…
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BComm Llb, GAICD, CFA