Most people want to get better and improve. One effective way to improve is through feedback. The challenge is if you accept the feedback. The process of feedback can be a raw and difficult one because sometimes the feedback you receive may not be what you wanted to hear. It’s tough to give and receive feedback when the message is not entirely positive but often these are turning point moments if the person can hear the feedback and constructively apply it.
There are several phases of feedback:
- Denial – we reject the feedback or declare it to be untrue
- Anger – we are upset at the person who delivers the message
- Rationalization – we consider the feedback and think about a few examples where it might perhaps be valid
- Acceptance – we consider the feedback to be true and accept the message
- Take action – we take the feedback to heart and put some behavior changes into action
- Others see a change – this is not a typical step in the feedback process but it’s how we know we are successful when others see a change in our behavior and there is a positive outcome
When clients successfully make a change, they own the feedback and behavior shift, commit to the new behavior and see the benefit. We can give people feedback but unless they digest it and decide to work on the behavior nothing changes. We know that feedback has worked only when others see a change in the person. For example, often the person working on change may feel that they are in fact more patient or a better listener yet everyone on their team still sees them as impatient and not a good listener. So the cycle is only complete when other people recognize and experience the shift in behavior – this is a critical component. It’s also helpful to let co-workers know what you are working on so they can help you stay accountable, give you positive feedback as you make progress and let you know when you are successful.
A good framework to give effective feedback follows this approach:
1. Start the conversation by sharing what the person does well (focus on strengths because people like to discuss what they do well) – example, I think when you are contributing at your highest level you are great at dealing with complex problems and communicating to the group what the key concerns are and how to address them. (If you need help identifying your strengths try this assessment CliftonStrengths).
2. Identify the issue so everyone is clear what you are talking about – highlight what didn’t go well without pointing a finger at the person. For example, in this project although we addressed the problem we didn’t clearly communicate the main issues to the team so there was a lot of confusion.
3. Ask the person for input, do you see the problem that I am highlighting and what is your perspective? For example, you can ask the person for their thoughts and if they think the communication portion was adequately addressed. They may or may not agree with you which is ok but it’s important to understand the conflict from their perspective.
4. Ask the person how he/she would approach this situation in the future and apply their strengths? It’s helpful to focus on what the person does well and how applying their strengths can help them work thru challenges.
5. It can also be effective to switch roles with the person and ask them how would they feel if someone on their team created the communication problem above? What suggestions would he/she have in this scenario?
Everyone needs feedback whether you are an intern, associate, manager or CEO. It’s the only way we get better and know what’s working. The key is in how you deliver feedback. Most people focus on the negative as in what you did wrong or what you are not doing. I encourage my clients who are managers when giving feedback to focus on the person’s strengths and what they do well to form the foundation for the conversation. Feedback is important because it gives people an opportunity to know where they stand, increases awareness of blind spots and offers a chance to improve.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dress for Success. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook