I have found that most people dread the idea of giving and receiving feedback, even if the feedback is constructive or positive. That said, giving authentic feedback is a key competency every leader must master. When you do it well, you become a stronger leader among your peers – and your entire team benefits. Preparing your mind and following a process is essential for successfully delivering feedback and changing behavior.
Dare to care
The first step is to identify why you want to give feedback. If it is because someone has irritated you or made you mad – or you simply want to respond in kind or stand your ground – this is the wrong reason. I guarantee your interaction will not go well!
I encourage you to enter the feedback process with a caring mindset toward the recipient. Obviously, the individual has said or done something that has bothered you, and you need to make him or her aware of the impact of their actions. In addition, if you care and respect someone, you owe them the courtesy of letting them know how their behaviors were inappropriate and need improvement. Giving authentic feedback is best done with a caring and compassionate mindset.
Prepare for the discussion
The next step is to prepare for your feedback session. The best process I have seen and used is the Situation-Behavior-Impact Tool developed by The Center for Creative Leadership. It is a simple yet highly effective tool, and works like this:
Situation: Offer context by defining when and where the situation occurred. For example, you would say, “In the meeting yesterday, when you were presenting and I asked for clarification, I noticed that …”
Behavior: Define the specific behavior you witnessed. It is important to simply state what you saw and not make assumptions. For example, “Your tone and response when I asked for clarification indicated I should know the answer to the question …”
Impact: Define how the behavior made you and others feel. For example, “When you told me I should know the answer, it sounded like a put-down and made me feel stupid. I also saw others in the room react with surprise to your comments.”
…if you care and respect someone, you owe them the courtesy of letting them know how their behaviors were inappropriate and need improvement. Giving authentic feedback is best done with a caring and compassionate mindset.
Through this process, it is essential to depersonalize your feedback and simply state the facts regarding how the situation made you feel.
Schedule a meeting
Now it’s time to set up the meeting with the individual. I recommend making a calendar appointment that lasts one hour or less, and do it over coffee. I personally like holding the session in the receiver’s office, which makes the person feel more comfortable receiving the feedback. Also remember that these types of meetings are confidential and best done behind closed doors.
Find the good
Moving forward, it is important to be on the lookout for positive behavior changes in the future. Make sure to recognize the accomplishment, and let the person know how much you value and appreciate their effort. Positive reinforcement helps ensure their new behavior “sticks.”
Giving constructive feedback is very tough to do, and takes courage, care and compassion. As a leader, you are responsible for addressing behaviors that negatively impact you or others. When done the right way, giving authentic feedback leads to positive employee morale, strengthens your own leadership abilities, and fosters a culture of openness and transparency across your organization.
Think of a feedback session that went well. What made it work?