Giving feedback is one of the most important skills when it comes to leading effectively, building trust and inspiring high performance in others. Yet most people don’t give feedback well. They either avoid conversations, dilute their message, or in the name of directness, blurt out whatever they are thinking with poor results.
Here are ten things NOT to do when giving feedback, and what to do instead:
1. Waiting until performance review time to give feedback. Members of your team should never be surprised in their performance review. Make regular feedback, both positive and negative, a part of regular conversations with your team.
2. Telling a person they are “being”… unprofessional, rude, inconsiderate, sloppy, slow, hurtful, or any other adjective that describes a negative characteristic. Give feedback on what people are doing effectively and not as effectively – never on how they are being.
3. Telling someone what not to do without suggesting what to do instead. There’s usually a reason behind every behavior. Give someone a better way to get the results they’re aiming for, and they’ll have an easier time changing.
4. Assuming someone who isn’t performing “doesn’t care”. Usually there’s something going on that is holding them back. Try to find out what it is.
5. Giving someone feedback when you are frustrated. Your frustration with them is all they will hear. Take time to move yourself to a place of neutral or positive energy before delivering feedback. Sometimes it helps to imagine a positive intention behind the behavior or remember what you like and respect about the person in general.
6. Assume they know the impact of their behavior. Most people don’t – they are clear about their intentions, but they can only guess at how their words and behaviors land. Especially if you are triggered by someone’s behavior, chances are good that they did not realize they triggered you, even if your brain is screaming that they did it on purpose.
7. Giving a “Feedback Sandwich”. This doesn’t work; it just dilutes the message. Give feedback clearly and also kindly.
8. Confusing honesty with blurting out whatever mean words are in your head. Take the time to think about how your words will land. No matter what you have say to a person, you can say it with respect.
9. Forgetting to include the “why”. The best feedback is given in the context of what we are working together to achieve. If we both want something important, then a feedback conversation simply becomes a discussion about what works more or less effectively to get us there.
10. Avoid the conversation until you aren’t too upset about it. It’s better to have the conversation when you aren’t upset. Develop the skills to have these conversations easily when you are not upset, and you will proactively prevent more serious problems later.
Feedback conversations can be awkward at the best of times, and usually we avoid them or fumble through them quickly to get them over with. But with thought, planning and practice, you can become masterful at giving clear and kind feedback as a natural part of your conversations with friends, colleagues and your team.