We have all been given feedback we did not want to hear at the point we were being given it.

I dreaded year-end appraisals when I was at the receiving end in a professional services firm. Now running my own business, I have noticed that my negative feelings about feedback make it difficult for me to give negative feedback to others so I avoid giving feedback until I absolutely must.

We all know that regular feedback is vital for personal and team growth so your ability to deliver feedback in a timely manner cannot be overestimated. Below are a few strategies that have helped me and my team in giving and receiving feedback. 

  1. Change your mindset – My experience of receiving harsh feedback without compassion led me to believe that all feedback needs to be delivered that way but that is far from the truth. First of all, I had to rid myself of the belief that all feedback is delivered to hurt or undermine people. In fact, feedback given in the right way is a demonstration of compassion. It is compassionate to give feedback and give support to improve behaviour and results. It is also ultimately compassionate to help transition people out of roles that they are struggling in if the feedback shows that they are not suited to the role. Not giving feedback in a timely, constructive manner and only delivering it only once a year leads to resentment and tension as the pressure build-up in the team and eventually gets directed at poor performers.
  2. Do it as soon as possible - Putting off giving negative feedback in the hope that the behaviour improves organically is not a great idea. There are many advantages to immediate feedback. Giving feedback immediately after an event means that the incident is still fresh in your mind so you can walk through the situation much more vividly than if you left it for a few days or even months when time would have dulled the impact and blurred the lines around what went wrong and what could have been done better.
  3. Take the emotions out of the equation - Uncontrolled emotions make giving and receiving feedback even more challenging than it should be. Some emotions are largely not conducive to having positive feedback sessions. So, make sure you are calm and collected before giving feedback but don’t leave it too late.  A night to sleep on the feedback and to dull emotions should be more than adequate.
  4. Do it in person - Nobody wants to be dumped via a text message or email. In fact, even a phone call is not the best way to deliver feedback especially if it is not all glowing. Delivering feedback remotely puts even more barriers into a situation that is already quite tense and challenging. When giving feedback, make sure you are face to face and giving the session your full undivided attention.
  5. Make time for it – Giving feedback properly always tends to take more time than we allocate to it. A feedback session is not a process that should be rushed. Allocate enough time to deal with any response and potential questions from the person receiving the feedback.
  6. Be prepared - Prepare for the meeting by gathering evidence and having some talking points to lead the discussion. Otherwise, it can very easily turn into a loop with no new information being discussed. Have an agenda for the meeting and be prepared to share some of that in advance of the meeting if necessary so people come in prepared.
  7. Find the cause of bad performance - It is also important to understand the root cause of bad performance. Was it business or personal related, was it due to workload or attitude? Is this the first time or is it a recurring theme? Once you understand the root cause of the problem then the discussions can progress to practical solutions on how to avoid these issues in future.

It is important we give constructive feedback with the right supervision to help your team improve their performance.

What strategies have you used to give feedback effectively?

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