How to Give Feedback To People
4 min read
No matter the team, context or industry, giving feedback can be hard.
And yet receiving feedback is critical for your self-awareness and development.
So why do we struggle with it and what can we do about it?
Let's take a look...
Why is it difficult to give feedback?
It's all about reactions.
No matter how we sugarcoat it, many people just don't like being told things about themselves.
We can get defensive, deny the problem or react emotionally.
Approaching this in the wrong way can be counter-productive.
But we want to help them out so what can we do?
Before we the method of giving feedback, we need to understand the nature of reactions...
Why do people react badly to feedback?
It can be uncomfortable to hear negative things about yourself, or worse - perceived as a threat.
Let's take a short dive into management theory and a model called The Johari Window
This model is an exploration of the differences in self and team awareness about a person.
About any given issue - either they know about it already or they don't.
If they don't know about the issue (but you do)- it means that issue is in their blind spot. Which means revealing it to them in any way is going to be a surprise.
If they do know already (and think that others don't) - it means that issue is part of their facade or mask, which means they're hiding it from others, or maybe it's just not obvious.
Revealing an issue to them directly, in either case, can be challenging.
When an issue is known to everyone - we say it's in the arena or out in the open. That also means it's now possible to start working on the issue together.
Moving issues from the blindspot or the facade into the arenaso we can work on it, is the primary goal of giving feedback.
How do I give feedback?
1. Ask for permission to give feedback
Asking "Can I give you some feedback?" opens the door to the discussion and changes the context of the feedback delivery.
Allowing them to decide both gives you agency and them some control over the process - you can proceed with their approval.
Perhaps they already know on some level what you're going to say or you may need to give them space to prepare and reschedule for a better time.
In any case, asking for permission to give feedback allows them to mentally and emotionally prepare to receive it.
2. Recognise the Positives.
Most people are good, they want to do well, succeed and get on with others.
As a result, many issues have at least a shred of good in them - which should be acknowledged and accepted.
e.g. "I know you're putting a lot of effort into that administration work, but it means that sometimes customer needs are being missed"
You should reflect on this carefully before approaching them with it.
If you recognise the good in the issue, you validate their good intentions and that makes it easier to deliver the constructive feedback.
3. Deliver the Feedback.
Be candid and clear, don't be tempted to explain the problem away or mitigate it at this point.
It's critical to describe in simple terms exactly what the problem is and its impact on the team, department or business.
Allow a little time for them to listen, understand and react, as well as giving time to respond and offer their viewpoint too.
It's important at this point to keep your mind open, sometimes the reasons for what people say and do can be hidden, and the only way to find out for sure is to talk to them about it.
Encourage them to share, using good active listening techniques for their response and consider their points carefully before moving to the next step.
4. Offer Practical Solutions.
After delivering the feedback and listening to what they had to say, we need to help out.
Give them actions or activities they can put into practice right away that help counter the issue. Again, keep suggestions simple and to the point.
Ideally, they collaborate with you on this step, agreeing or suggesting possible ways to solve the issue - at this point the issue is in the "Arena" or open and you're working on it together.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to help out when we see a problem and what's good for one team member is good for the whole team (and vice versa)
5. Support, Review, Follow up
After delivering the feedback effectively - you should both feel better. The purpose is to be constructive, help them improve and for the team to move forward together afterwards.
Be sure to follow up later and give positive reinforcement when you see improvements.
That's a brief overview, it doesn't cover everything - but it should point you in the right direction.
Good luck giving feedback!
I hope that helps!