“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Tim Ferriss
Last week I attended a training seminar on the benefits and guidelines of giving and receiving effective feedback. The training was intended to ”improve our leadership capacity and overall professional and personal effectiveness.” One thing I love about working for Gemba Marketing – we’re always on the lookout for continuous improvement opportunities. Our love of learning binds us all. We’re nerds. It’s fine.
Feedback is ubiquitous. We do it everyday. We thank our coworkers for completing tasks. We show appreciation to our spouse for that one time they did the dishes. We compliment our stylish friend whenever they wear that cat sweater we love so much; we give praise to the coworker who brought donuts to the office. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we give feedback all the time in the form of compliments and praise.
Positive feedback is easy, sometimes effortless. Critical feedback, on the other hand, haunts most people’s dreams. I don’t know a single person who enjoys telling someone about the things they’re doing wrong at work. And if such a person exists, I don’t what to meet them. Ever.
Critical feedback is hard, awkward, and might be one of the most uncomfortable things the human mind is capable of feeling. Yet it’s a crucial skill to master.
When done effectively, feedback changes a person’s behavior and ultimately improves workplace efficiency and camaraderie. In fact, according to data from OfficeVibe, companies that implement regular employee feedback have a 14.9% lower turnover rate than companies that neglect feedback. Even more, employees are 30 times more likely to feel actively engaged when they receive feedback from their managers.
But what makes it effective? How do we confront someone about something they’re doing wrong without causing defensiveness? What can we do to make sure their behavior isn’t repeated? On paper, it’s easy. And if we can understand the easy stuff, we’re one step closer to understanding how to deliver effective, critical feedback that doesn’t cause anxiety and a week’s worth of night terrors. Presenting the 5 golden rules of effective feedback.
No beating around the bush or passive aggressive behavior. Deliver the feedback directly and genuinely to the person who needs to hear it. In other words, don’t host a meeting and make critical remarks that are only intended for one specific person in the room. That’s rude, something our high school selves might have done in the locker room, and it results in a whole lot of hurt feelings.
2. Owned by the Sender
Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Own the feedback. “Some people don’t like it when you do ____” feels way more antagonizing than “I noticed when you do ____ it causes me to _____.” The feedback should exist between you and your receiver. No one else.
The more detail you can provide, the more sense it will make. Reference specific behaviors rather than assumptions and inferences. Because you know what they say about making assumptions…
4. State the Effect of the Behavior
If necessary, discuss the natural consequences of the person’s behavior. Does it impact the team? Does their behavior influence the office flow? Does it increase the workload for someone else? Hold off on delivering this step until the person is ready to problem solve. They’re not going to want to listen to the consequences until they understand exactly what they’re doing wrong.
Deliver your feedback as soon as possible. You wouldn’t wish someone a Merry Christmas in July, would you? No. That’s dumb. Feedback is the same way. Telling someone you appreciate the work they did on that project doesn’t mean much if you wait six months after the fact. When delivering critical feedback, give yourself a day or two to calm down and think it through, but make sure you confront the person within a few days of the incident.
Aside from those 5 nuggets of feedback criteria, the most important thing I learned at the training seminar was that I’m not alone in feeling intimidated by confrontation. It’s uncomfortable, yes, and no one enjoys discomfort. But when we understand the growth that stems from uncomfortable situations, we not only better the success of ourselves, we better the success of those around us.
Whether we’re in the office, at home, or anywhere else, critical feedback, when done effectively, is an integral behavior to every human relationship – it thickens our skin, strengthens our connections, and helps us discover the leader within us all.