Feedback is a gift. It’s also really hard or there wouldn’t be so many blogs, articles and
books written about it. What makes delivering feedback so uncomfortable? We think about
feedback as being personal. We’ve probably all heard, it’s not about the person, it’s about the behavior. I’m not sure I buy into that because it is the person’s behavior that we are addressing, but, hey, if that helps you, roll with it.
I think one of the many reasons it is hard is because we (the deliverer) inadvertently and sometimes unintentionally, make it about us.
- We don’t want to hurt their feelings = We don’t want them to be mad at us
- They’re going to be uncomfortable = We’re going to be uncomfortable
- It’s not that big a deal = I really don’t want to do this so I’m going to procrastinate
Here’s the crux of the matter – If you are a leader in your organization, it is your job to deliver feedback. It’s not a nice to have or something to do when you have time, it is a must. You owe it to your employees. Have you ever learned about something you were doing wrong, indirectly? That feels crummy when you know that your leader did not come directly to you. Don’t do that.
When we can take a step back and look at the situation from a logical standpoint, and take some of the emotions out of it, we can be better prepared to deliver the feedback.
I’m a planner. I love a good plan. And I’ve found, that when I have a plan, hard conversations are not as hard. Below is a 4-step process for delivering feedback that I preach to my clients, leaders and organizations (and anyone who will listen).
- This is what I saw: This can be the hardest part of the conversation. Don’t shy away; be specific. Provide real examples with dates and times, if needed. It is easier to talk in generalities but for the employee’s sake and in the name of risk mitigation, be specific, in the conversation and in the documentation.
- Here is the impact: Many times, employees don’t think about the impact of their actions, whether it be on their peers, on their leaders and on the organization. Again, be direct and specific. “When you are continuously 5-10 minutes late every day, your co-workers notice that and it can lower their morale. It also decreases productivity for our department and the organization.”
- What’s going on?: This is not always appropriate but sometimes it is. For example, if you are investigating a harassment claim, we are probably not going to ask the employee what’s going on in their life to cause that behavior. However, if you have a rockstar employee that is suddenly not performing well, it’s very appropriate to ask them what’s going on. There could be something that you don’t know about (financial difficulties, health, kiddo issues) that could be behind the change in performance. We want to know about this because many organizations have resources to support and you can too.
- This is what good looks like: Time to reset (or set) expectations. These should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based). The employee also needs to understand what will happen if they do not meet or sustain expectations within the time lined out.
If you practice preparing in this way, it is easier to get through the feedback and you’ve also protected yourself and your company by covering what you need to cover. Tip: In your preparation, jot down some notes or bullet points so that you can stay on track during the conversation. We all know the rabbit-trailer and the notes will help you get back on track, if needed.
So, yes, feedback is a gift. I really believe that even though it is just as hard to receive sometimes as it is to deliver. But, just like our physical workout, practice makes us stronger. If we don’t practice giving feedback, we never give ourselves a chance to get stronger at it. And we rob our employees of the opportunity to grow and succeed.
Go practice and let us know how we can support!