Great and impactful feedback is essential for everyone’s performance and development. However giving feedback that inspires and supports behaviour change is difficult. Creating action is not always easy.
Changing someone’s behaviour is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. It is even more difficult than changing our own behaviour – no matter how much feedback we might give ourselves. Behaviour change and sustaining that change is really hard.
Sometimes just the word “Feedback” can create resistance. Reframe feedback as guidance. Feedback looks back at what did or did not go well whereas guidance looks to the future and explores ideas on how to modify behaviour to achieve desired results.
Preparation is crucial.
• What is the real issue you need to discuss?
• What is your intention? To point our errors and faults or to create a trusting and safe open conversation?
• What outcome do you want? To win and prove the other person wrong or at fault? Or to agree on what can be done to aid performance and results in a certain area?
• Frame the feedback. It should be a learning opportunity, future focused, guidance and supportive.
• How can you involve the person and listen to their world, their views and experience and learn from them (this is feedback to you and may make some invisible things visible to you).
• How will you involve the person in creating an action plan and support structures that will enable them to move forward. Ask them what they need. Don’t tell.
Determine the real issue
- Determine what the real issue is that you want to bring up.
- Describe it.
- What is the impact of the issue on (a) you (b) others (c) results (d) the relationship
What is your intention?
Your intention is what you really want to achieve from having the conversation. Stand back from the situation and look in. If your intention is not positive then a positive outcome will not be achieved. Suspend judgement.
What outcome do you want?
Think about the outcome that you want from the discussion and consider both tangible and in-tangible. For example:
- An action plan that has been created and owned by the individual with necessary support structures to faciliate the implementation of the plan.
- A relationship that is strong based on mutual respect.
- A motivated and supported person who feels confident about the action plan and ability to implement it.
Consider the receiver
How will you frame the conversation and put the information in context for them? How can you create a safe and trusting environment? When will be the best time and the best place that will help to create safety and so that they person has the space to listen and discuss the situation with you? What examples will you use? How will you ensure the person feels respected and valued?
Explore the area further with the person by using open, probing questions. Listen to their story, non-judgementally. Reflect back and/or paraphrase your understanding. Make sure that your tone of voice and body language match the message you want to give them (i.e. that you’re interested, want to learn more, want to encourage, support, help them etc.). Listen with your eyes and ears. Many times the team member is not saying what they really feel.
Encourage the person to explore changes in how they may do things to help them address any challenges or difficulties they have experienced. Offer suggestions. Constructively challenge ideas that you know are not feasible or practical. This provides further guidance and learning for the person.
Control your emotions
Our emotions don’t prepare us to converse effectively. Keep your focus on your positive intention and positive desired outcome.
Prepare for push back (change and bring below in to the other steps).
Push back is normal. Feedback can seem just “wrong”, “unfair”, “out of context”. This can be frustrating for the receiver, even hurtful or painful. You need to create the right safe environment and space that the person can receive the feedback. To receive the feedback well they need time to ask questions, understand it, share their perspective. If the person is not given the space and safety to do this the conversation will not open up and no new insights, understanding (for both parties) and guidance will come from the discussion.
The action plan
Support the person in coming up with their action plan. Ask, don’t tell. Offer suggestions. Ask them what they can do to implement the steps, how they will measure their progress, how you can support them in the implementation and learning. Offer encouragement and acknowledgement of steps and efforts the person is taking to move forward (even if they are not a 10/10 yet). If our efforts are not acknowledged it is very easy for a person to fall back to the old way.
Simple rules for giving feedback
- Be specific versus general
- Describe versus evaluate
- Focus on behaviour versus the person
- Maintain the relationship versus indulge in self-serving behaviour: The reason for the feedback is to help the other person get better
- Ask permission to give feedback or share an observation with the person
- Share your observation without judgement
Dymphna Ormond is an IMI associate who teaches on Front Line Management and Essential Skills of Management programmes. Dymphna has over 14 years of experience designing and delivering training that engages, challenges and stimulates the thinking of participants. Her areas of expertise and interest are in employee engagement, leadership and management skills, presenting and communicating with impact.