Getting further with feedback
Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
If you aren’t giving and receiving feedback your commitment to improvement and success is shallow at best. You’re stunting yourself and your organization.
Giving good feedback doesn’t begin with talking. It begins with listening, asking questions, and watching with intention. Don’t assume you’re perceptions are right. Try the “5 Why” method developed by Sakichi Toyoda of Toyota.
Intentionally choose to focus on behaviors you want repeated, stopped, or done differently. If you can’t see it, define it, explain it and illustrate it, don’t give feedback. Saying things like you’re lazy or you have a bad attitude will be followed by, “No I’m not,” and, “No I don’t.” You’ve created an adversarial conversation.
Give specific examples concerning specific behaviors that have specific outcomes. Saying, “Good job,” is nice but it isn’t good feedback.
5 to 1:
When giving negative feedback avoid extreme language like always, never, all the time, and worst. Keep in mind it takes five positive comments to balance one negative.
Public or Private:
Feel free to give positive feedback in public but remember the down side may be jealousy or resentment from others who feel overlooked. On the other hand, usually give negative feedback in private.
Give negative feedback publicly for public violations, defiance, or intentional public insolence. The rule of thumb is the extent and context of offenses determines the extent and context of your response. Treat others with reciprocity. At the same time, don’t over react.
A note on reciprocity:
Give others the benefit of the doubt until they prove they are malicious. Be gracious; err on the side of generosity. After they cross the line, reflect their orientation back to them. For example, don’t back down from those who are aggressive. If you do, aggressive employees will walk all over you.
What feedback tips can you add?
Thanks for this post, Dan. I would love to hear your thoughts on the time between actions and feedback? Is it different if you’re intending to give positive or negative feedback?
Thank you for stopping in…
Generally I go with the idea of “see it say it.” Don’t wait. However, if the feedback is uniquely negative or positive I’d think a bit of preparation is in order.
Over all, in my opinion, delay diminishes effectiveness.
What do you think?
My opinion – it’s best to wait for emotions to calm down before speaking.
Emotions don’t listen to feedback, talk to logical brain, not emotional brain.
Nice call Alan.
How about the best of both worlds? When something happens that you need to address with “negative” feedback, declare your intention to do so after emotions have calmed down.
I read something a while ago – I believe it was in “Your Brain at Work” (David Rock) or another of his publications, that the question, “May I give you some feedback?” is likely to activate a threat response in many people i.e. threat to one’s status, role etc. He suggests using the word feedforward :). I am thinking ‘rose is still a rose’ but the idea of a more appreciative inquiry approach, asking what may be more effective next time and what it takes to make that happen (action) is less about making people wrong which has the potential for dispiriting the receivers and precluding their learning.
I hear you on “may i give you some feedback.” I’ve heard it said that unrequested advice is always perceived as criticism.
Love the feedforward expression. I’ve always taken it to be a way to explain future behaviors where feedback deals more with past behaviors. I think there’s a place for both.
As always, thank you for giving back to the community.
Hi Dan, I approach feedback a little differently. If it is negative, not only do I do it privately but always ask whether there are some unexpected stresses going on in the person’s life. If there is not it still provides a platform of caring so when the feedback is given it comes across not as critical but as a true sense of wanting to help the individual grow. I agree with your comment for positive feedback when you said “say it as you see it.” It tends to have a more significant impact. Great feedback is and should be done on a more personal note and transmit the message that the person’s action/s supply a lot of meaning with regards to VMV. I try very hard to follow the rule that all feedback should be construed in a positive fashion and simply as a heads up so the individual can “re-tool” and “re-group” their actions and ideas respectively. A lot of times negative feedback is blessed with the discovery that the person’s talents can better utilized in a differet setting. Other than the “malcontents” I sincerely believe most folks want to excel at what they do and the expectation is that leaders should provide them with the right environment to do so. Regards, Al
Zing! Great comment. You remain consistently positive and encouraging.
I see you asking questions because you may not know the whole story. It’s easy to jump to conclusions. A good question helps.
I love your statement that feedback is a “platform for caring.” Can I come work for you? 🙂
I’m with you, I believe most people want to excel. Frequently its the organizations fault they aren’t.
Your insights and generosity encourage me and I’m sure others.
Dr. Al Diaz is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. He consistently adds to the conversation. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
A loose exception to the private negative feedback would be if group or organizational performance is not up to snuff. (what does that mean???) Then the feedback might be in a more public forum of course. If individuals had key roles, certainly that specific feedback could be more private, however, if it is a true team the whole team needs the whole perceived picture, warts and all.
Al – You’re right on when you ask about unexpected stresses going on in the person’s life. That provides a beautiful context within which to address what needs to be addressed.
(it may also save you face in case the feedback you were about to share was misguided and inappropriate, due to something the person WAS honestly going through).
The best feedback I ever received was when I was learning to present workshops professionally. After each student’s turn at practicing a presentation The instructor complimented something specific and then said these magic words:
“What area would you most like to improve upon?”
Then he would nod agreement, thank them and call for a round of applause.
He never gave any feedback personally.
He allowed us to find the answers within.
That was an amazing lesson I still use in coaching today.
I love it! Dang, I wish I would have thought of that question.
I wonder how this question works when the area of improvement isn’t really optional? “How would you like to improve in this area?”
Thanks for adding value.
Good or bad feedback needs to be developed after one has taken the time to get the facts about the situation and not assume hearsay is accurate, even if it comes from a reliable source and it is good hearsay. As a great deal of research has shown, people will remember negative events that occur personally to them much longer than they will remember positive events.
You’ve added solid punch to the idea that giving feedback begins with getting the facts straight. We all know that even if you admit you were wrong, bad feelings linger.
Always a pleasure seeing you,
Jim consistently adds his perspective to the LF conversation. He focuses mostly on safety. However, he has a broad range of experiences. His bio: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/james-leemann
Love your line:
“If you aren’t giving and receiving feedback your commitment to improvement and success is shallow at best.” How true!
A few feedback guidelines I try to follow:
– Praise publicly, correct privately
– If I’m going to correct someone’s behavior, I should havel an alternate I’d like them to try (vs. just saying “do it differently”)
– Never ask someone to do something I don’t/won’t do myself!
I truly appreciate the positive feedback. 🙂
Your added guidelines are useful. I particularly appreciate the specificity you call for in point two. Feedback AND Feedforward.
Thank you for taking a few moments to read and comment.
All the best,
What great answers from everyone.
Feedback in my opinion is important in both cases (accent on positive part always, and negative feedbacks given with carefulness for each person in order to help those around us to improve their selves, if we care about them and we see that they are open people and strong). For me having a negative feedback from people that I trust is essential in my evolution. Makes me think and learn to make things better next time.
All the best to all 🙂
Giving feedback to others is one of those areas that admittedly, I handle like hot coals because it can unintentionally burn. In handling it, circumstantially there are a few things that stand out in my mind.
1) I want to have the back story too, if there is one. This gives me perspective I might not otherwise have.
2) Have them come around the the answers as much as possible without it being me coming across as criticizing. Most people have good intentions at the core. My goal is to empower, not deflate. I’d rather calm down a geyser than jump start a mud-hole. So the last thing I want is to inadvertently kill the spirit and enthusiasm, especially in volunteers. When you’re not paying people, it can be difficult to come across negatively about anything because you appreciate them so much. Perhaps that inspires us to strive for extra politeness, I don’t know.
3) Have a sense of the stress-level they are under and whether they are emotionally secure enough for the feedback, or do I need another delivery method of the same information. When one of my mom volunteers just said goodbye to her husband going overseas, or her daughter just had heart surgery, it might not be the best time to approach “feedback.”
4) Is the feedback necessary? Parents learn eventually that you pick your battles. That’s true of life in general.
5) Instead of words like “you,” use words like we and group feedback. If a team is truly a team, it doesn’t fall on the shoulders of just one person.
6) Professional, respectful and courteous goes far.
I also meant to include that a military view of feedback, in the form of after action reports, is somewhat helpful too.
Paraphrasing my husband’s experience, every report contains:
What was successful
What wasn’t successful or needs improvement
What do you recommend for the next time
Very useful format he now also uses in corporate America today and has bled into my approaches as well. When everyone knows this is part of the expected format, it helps a lot.
On the topic of negative feedback publicly or privately, here’s something to consider. When the “bad behavior or attitude” has affected others publicly, a leader’s silence and private feedback to the perpetrator does not give the offended party any validation or help.
An example: In a meeting, a team member said to/about a pregnant team member — we shouldn’t consider you for this responsibility because you will be out of commission.
The leader said nothing to help/support the pregnant team member. He did speak to the rude team member privately yet it did nothing to teach or communicate or assert the core value of respect to the whole team AND did not give the offended team member any verbal support of her value.
Consider this approach: If the negative feedback is on performance issues etc… give it in private. If it is in response to an egregious act against others that was perpetrated in public, then speak up and give support to the offended parties.
Kate, this is a very insightful and valuable point! Thanks for including it.
Thank you for your advise. Is so true and good for people involved in these situations to handle things with courage and integrity and to help someone in needs.
Great advise from you :
“If the negative feedback is on performance issues etc… give it in private. If it is in response to an egregious act against others that was perpetrated in public, then speak up and give support to the offended parties.”
Giving effective feedback is an art, isn’t it? I wrote recently about the RIDE method of talking to someone about problem solving – this is a technique I learned as a suicide hotline counselor/trainer/oncall supervisor. We also learned a lot about feedback at Telephone Counseling and Referral Service. Mainly how critical it is to be specific and to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. I see that in parenting (mine and others) all the time. My dear 11 year old (star of the recent homework dilemma) is very slow about doing pretty much anything an adult wants him to do (such as pick up his clothes from the floor, etc). My spouse frequently calls him “Molasses” and although it is half family joke, I also cringe inside every time. As an adult I compensate, but truth be told I am methodical to the point of SLOW in my approach to many things in life so I can relate! Perhaps more effective would be “When you delay in picking your clothes off the floor, I feel frustrated because I want our family to be able to move onto activities we all enjoy.”
I also wanted to throw in a thought about “don’t back down from those who are aggressive. If you do, aggressive employees will walk all over you.” I think there is a difference in our leadership response between meeting aggression with aggression and meeting aggression with “assertiveness.” Many of the aggressive employees I have dealt with need a calm, firm response as opposed to one that matches theirs in pitch and emotion.
I like your distinction between assertive and aggressive Paula! I so agree!
In one learning about critiquing a while back, the instructor indicated that first, appreciate or praise (give the positive its own space) and identify strengths and then inquire about one or two opportunities to expand or develop.
I would probably insert a middle step of asking the person how s/he thinks the interaction went. (We are our own worst critics.) If her/his observations are consistent with mine, I do not, REPEAT, do not, need to pile on. Actually that person made my job much easier as they have internalized what they might work on next time. (Might be another opportunity to provide positive feedback for having solid insights!)
So, even if an interaction goes badly, recognize the effort, ask about her/his perceptions and then ask what would be done differently or how could it go even better the next time.
This is of course if an honest effort was put forth. If it was not an honest effort (get all the facts as others have noted), then it is a different issue.
The feedback moments are those nuggets where VMV consistency can be brought up as well…litely of course.
Neutral turf for the feedback too, not your space or office, not theirs or as noted, probably not public.
If you create the expectation, by consistently asking for positive and negative feedback regularly about yourself and your interactions, you set the standard that others will rise to.
That is a high level of transparency and vulnerability with the underlying message that you value an environment of ongoing learning and growth.
Mirror: If you do not model that expectation, why would others step up first or why would you expect them to?
To add my share of comments to what have been already said : “speaking methodology for giving feedback”
=> avoiding personal attack feeling and so on.
I: I see, hear … you + behaviour/action => so not on personal level, only on behaviour level
I: I feel, got the feeling … => the effect on me (kind of explanation of the behaviour)
You: Do you recognize behaviour/action+effect on me? => invitation to express the awareness or unawareness of the behaviour and consequences. Can become the start of a conversation and a change.
That’s it. 😉
I like your point that leaders should provide positive feedback in public and negative feedback in person. Feedback is like a medicine which either cures or reacts. Cure and reaction depend upon the intention of the leader and perceived meaning by receiver. Perceived meaning is perhaps more important than the intention of the leader. If perceived meaning is positive and receiver does not feel offended, he will surely take in positive sense otherwise he might take it in opposite sense.
Now, what feedback tips can I add? I believe that in feedback process source plays the bigger role. Source creates the whole process workeable or un-workeable. If source is reliable, reputed and publicly accepted then feeback mechanism will certainly be trustworthy and will create value for people and the organisation, but if the source is not public accepted and unreliable, then feedback will produce negative outcome and perhaps destroys the trust in the system.
I believe that feedback should be constructive and not destructive. Constructive feedback prevents inadequacy and promotes accoutability. So, to improve feedback , leaders have to ensure free flow of information across all the levels. If informations are not free across all levels then feedback will be destructive and not constructive. Therefore, free flow of information and honest and value driven feed back are supplementary to each other. One is not possible without other. Improve free flow of information, improve constructive feedback.
I liked your beginning the post with Ken Blanchard’s wonderful comments to start a good day. Feedback is feedback, be it positive or negative so long as it is honest and reliable. Positive feedback will enhance your confidence level and can enhance your qulaity efforts with greater energy, while neagative feedback gives you an opportunity to bring corrective measures to put essential things in order, go cautiously and not to repeat mthings that went unproductive.
The leader always encourages feedback mechanism and creates an environment for people to share their views, opinions and criticisms to benefit. Only the people who are close to you like colleagues and team members, well wishers and mentors will provide a true feeback for you to benefit.
Feedback can also be termed as the backbone of success and is very vital for the human body to move with a persoanlity to reckon with.
Dear Dr. Asher,
I appreciate your point and agree that feedback is feedback so long as it is honest and reliable. For the honest and reliable feedback, the source or medium has to be reliable. I agree that well wishers provide true feedback and are generally close to bosses. However, there are colleagues who might not be very close to bosses but are more transparent and honest in nature. So, leader has to take the feedback of silenced employees too, that will provide broader perspective to analyze the feedback.
Thanks for substaintiating my views with your comments. Leaders are always smart enough to know their close associates who can be relied upon upon for the feedback and with what weightage. At times, they can be mislead if surrounded by incompetent and power-crazy coterie.
Employees who are committed and part of the winning team will
usually not remain silent. Silent employees are actually dangerous since they might have either withdrawn themselves from taking an active part or are suppressed by others for their inactive or negative role.
Dan, good word!!!!!!!!!!!! I always try to remember God gave me two ears and one mouth. Hopefully to do more listening!!!!!!! Howie
Dan – great post, as always! The best way I’ve found to get further with feedback is to accept it. It’s a gift that doesn’t always feel like a gift. Feedback can be beautifully delivered, yet if one isn’t open to the content, the packaging doesn’t matter!
Jane, you are correct that feedback isn’t always an easy “gift” to accept. Learning to apply legitimate feedback that we receive is a humblnig but critical skill.