Whatever position you hold, giving feedback is a powerful tool. However, it is only effective and productive when delivered properly. First of all, let’s think about the title of this blog… ‘negative feedback’ feels very critical. Let’s reframe it as ‘Constructive Feedback’, which emphasises that this is a supportive conversation. Going into a feedback session with this clearly in your head will have you both looking forward.
Here are some tips to help you avoid the common feedback fails:
Be clear, be kind
What you don’t want is to let someone leave a feedback session thinking ‘what just happened?’ You may have to say difficult things but don’t let your discomfort with this cause you to go round the houses with your wording. State the feedback clearly, directly and with specifics, giving the
recipient the best possible chance to improve their performance.
For example, put yourself in Fran’s shoes…how do you feel after receiving each of these? Which will help you change your performance?
Option 1: Well, Fran. Well done on your performance. Y’know, you’re a really valued member of the team and it’s safe to say that you do lots of great work. At times I’ve thought that I’d like to hear your voice a bit more? As in, I sometimes think we’d get a lot from you speaking up though.
Option 2: Well done, Fran. You’ve really performed strongly, especially when working on tasks alone. I have noticed that in our weekly team meetings you rarely contribute. Last Monday, for example, you didn’t speak at all. I’d like you to input more in group settings as we’d really benefit from your insight.
Option 2 gets right to the heart of the feedback, backing it up with specifics. Fran leaves the room clear on the expectation of her going forward.
What really helps this is some very practical preparation:
Write down the phrases that you really need to get across and practise delivering your feedback.
Make sure you’re pausing so you can keep control! Record yourself. Listen back. Could it be clearer? Try again.
Remember, being direct can be hard but in this instance it really is the kindest thing to do!
Listen and show it
‘Don’t fall into the trap of a feedback session being one-way. It is an opportunity for you to really get to know what is going on for the other person and therefore help them to perform more effectively. Be prepared to ask some open questions. What do you think about that? How do you feel within those meetings? They will allow you to find out more and encourage reflection.
Practise some active listening: make sure that you show that you are listening by responding to what is being said. An effective and simple technique is to pick up on any emotions that are named.
Fran: I really want to speak up and sometimes I have some great ideas. But in the meeting, I feel intimidated within the group and the words just go.
Manager: I understand. I’m really sorry to hear that the group intimidates you.
Tone of voice - stay consistent
Of course, receiving difficult feedback can trigger many different emotional responses: defensiveness, anger, frustration, disappointment… the list goes on. Don’t be afraid of these moments: they can in fact be an incredible insight into how the other person works. But what we don’t want is for any emotions to escalate and for this conversation to become confrontational.
One way of helping this is to make sure that you stay calm and controlled with your tone. Think of what happens to the voice when someone gets angry: volume rises, pace increases, energy goes up. Often our instincts are to match the communication style of the person we are speaking to (and it is sometimes very effective) but in this instance it is likely to be unhelpful. Keep control of your volume, pace and energy. By consciously avoiding matching, or even topping, that person’s voice, there is a good chance that they will come back and join you in the calm zone soon enough.
Remember, feedback is about growth. It can be tough to face in the moment but it is a positive action for all involved in the long term. Let us know any other problems that you face.
If you'd like to find out more about our communication coaching courses, get in touch on 020 3137 6323.