Feedback – Should people receive it well?
My view is that there is no reason for this expectation. If it was that easy most people would readily receive feedback for change, yet the reality is that, for the majority, it is challenging. Often, the discomfort of giving feedback arises from the discomfort of receiving it, or worrying about the reaction of the receiving party.
Despite this, over the years, I have always sought out feedback, offered it, and encouraged more of it within business. I believe it is key to learning. Of course I have learned some hard lessons along the way, including giving it without enquiring if it was welcome, learning to choose the right person to ask for their views, adapting my listening to receive in a balanced manner (and yes I still have strong emotional responses from time to time), and deciding what feedback to fairly accept or reject. We all know that giving feedback is a skill of its own (who hasn’t given or received poorly presented feedback?).
First and foremost, understanding why you are choosing to give feedback is key. Your motive must be genuine, and ideally it needs to be sought, unless it is part of your responsibility i.e. at work.
Feedback within an organisation has its own challenges, however, we know that if we want to develop our organisation, those within it, and ourselves, then delivery and receiving it effectively is important for growth and profitability. Here are a few ways to improve the experience for everyone.
Make it part of the culture
For feedback to be readily welcomed, it needs to be looked upon as the norm, at all levels. It needs to be sought and given regularly. The more frequent that the individuals within your organisation get used to receiving and giving feedback, the easier it becomes. Ensure training is put into place for everyone.
Keep the balance
Too often feedback is only used to give ‘advice’ in a negative situation, or to berate, or discipline someone. There needs to be regular positive feedback, as well as areas of improvement. If employees only hear it when they are being ‘told off’ they will associate feedback accordingly. Ensure there is a purpose to the feedback, and, as mentioned, that there is a genuine motive. Avoid labelling it as ‘feedback’ when it is in fact something else, i.e. a disciplinary matter.
Explore the why
If you are faced with an employee who is resistant to feedback, then first of all you may need to feedback on their ability to receive feedback. This might be someone who challenges points made, stays silent, or agrees and then makes no change. In any event it is worth beginning with exploring why. Start off with an open question using neutral language. ‘I notice that when we have our one-to-ones, and I give feedback on developmental points, you become quieter than usual. What is happening for you?’ or even broader, ‘How do you perceive our one-to-one meetings’.
If you have already worked on giving effective feedback, and have had feedback on your ability to give and receive feedback (say that ten times fast!), then now is the time to tailor it to the individual even further. Ask them how you can help to ensure that the feedback is more readily received. It could be how it is presented, the timing of it, or simply they need time to digest before responding.
Make the outcome clear
Whilst ensuring the purpose/aim of the feedback is clearly set out, it is also important that the potential consequences (if any) of ignoring developmental points is clear. Ensure that any developmental steps going forward, or changes to be made, are agreed, ideally with a time frame if possible.
In addition, if you do have an employee who is resistant to feedback (passively or directly) then depending on other steps you have taken, it may need to be made clear to them that this behaviour, in itself, is an issue that needs resolving if they are to progress, or indeed remain, within the organisation.
Notice the change
If you do give feedback, and perhaps find yourself getting caught up in other matters once given, make a note of it somewhere and check it from time to time. Notice and acknowledge any improvements, between meetings if possible. Often it is expected that the individual will go away and make the changes, with no recognition given when they do. Positive praise will also keep the motivation going when it might be easy to lapse into old behaviours.
Learning how to give and receive feedback is an ongoing process. Training, seeking feedback, and using it regularly makes it easier. Here are a my top 12 tips to help you along the way:
6 Top Tips For Giving Feedback
- Expect initial emotions, including shock and anger. Allow time for this to process before there can be acceptance and any request for support.
- Use your own experiences or feelings where possible, using ‘I’ language, and have clear examples prepared in advance. Use ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘who’, ‘why’ (it is an issue), ‘how’ (it can be improved upon – this is best done as an agreed outcome using coaching skills).
- Consider your motive, and ensure feedback is actionable, with any expectations and consequences made clear.
- Feedback should be timely, keep it fresh rather than waiting for weeks to pass, or waiting for the annual appraisal!
- Unless you are responsible for the individual, ensure the feedback is wanted.
- Seek to deliver balanced feedback, and review your own feedback skills from time to time.
6 Top Tips For Receiving Feedback
- Ask the right people (experts, trustworthy, honest).
- Listen with curiosity and without judgement (of you or them).
- Ask questions to clarify, and where possible make notes, as you are unlikely to remember the detail.
- Thank the person giving the feedback (it isn’t always easy). This isn’t the same as agreeing with their view.
- If necessary, explore the feedback with others so to get additional views on it (see 1 above).
- Decide what behaviours you want to tweak, if any.
Remember – feedback is a technique used to help improve behaviours, based on showing how the behaviour has had an impact. Use it wisely, and you will reap what you sow.
One Life.Your Life.Live It
Simona is a professional leadership trainer, coach and speaker, working with motivated individuals to create successful professional lives and purposeful personal lives. Her focus is on mindset and strategy.
If you are looking for leadership training, or business or personal coaching to develop yourself, or grow your business, please get in touch for bespoke programmes to take your organisation, career or life to the next level.