Feedback Conversations Start in Your Head
Feedback conversations begin with the conversation you have with yourself.
You’ve been playing scenarios out in your head since you decided to give corrective feedback.
Develop a positive attitude and proactive posture before feedback conversations begin.
#1. Choose proactive language. Reject defensiveness.
The conversation you have in your head prepares you for the worst. You anticipate and answer imagined resistance. Practice saying things like:
- Assume this feedback is on point. What suggestions would you have for yourself?
- Imagine this feedback reflects a reality that you don’t see about yourself. What behaviors might resolve this?
- Suppose this feedback is for someone else. What behaviors/practices might help them move forward?
#2. Move toward optimistic thinking.
Place an X on a line that represents your confidence about “Barney’s” potential for improvement.
If your X is closer to doubtful, list three reasons why you didn’t place the X even further toward the left? Give yourself an opportunity to move toward confidence.
If your X is closer to the right, list three reasons for confidence.
#3. Shift language from negative to nonjudgmental.
- Choose to say “redirecting feedback” instead of “negative feedback”.
- You might drop the adjective. Just call it “feedback”.
- Rehearse saying, “I notice,” rather than, “I have feedback.”
#4. List what you really want for Barney.
A noble end is fuel for the journey.
My hopes for Barney include: (What do you really want for the person?)
5 feedback tips:
- Explore concerns before making conclusions.
- Adopt practices that feel good to you. Choose to walk and talk, rather than sitting in an office, for example.
- Don’t wait for big issues to pursue excellence. Frequency elevates comfort. Have regular performance conversations.
- Give feedback immediately. Delay is the enemy, unless your emotions are hot.
- Commit to the success of everyone on your team. Their success results in organizational success. It’s also yours.
How might leaders manage the conversation they have in their heads before feedback conversations begin?
What tips might help leaders succeed with feedback?
Garbage Can Basketball & Feedback [Video 3:55]
I have found over the years that the conversations are rarely as bad or tough as I anticipate they will be. It helps to reground myself in that context prior to any tough feedback conversations.
Also, have tangible EVIDENCE if it is about performance.
If the conversation is about feelings (these can be dangerous)…you must be willing to accept that feeling you have may not be mutual. Feeling conversations can lead to frustration on both sides when the other person does not agree with you.
Thanks Will. Sometimes I wonder what I was so worried about. 🙂
There is some value to anticipating problems. It helps us prepare. But, too much preparation makes us rigid.
If you can’t see it, it doesn’t matter. You might say, “You have a bad attitude.” But that’s subjective. You could say, “You walk around frowning.” Then describe the impact. Other’s think you’re upset or angry.
Thanks for your insights.
Hi Dan. Through coaching, I have learned to use Situation, Behaviour, Impact to discuss a desired change. For example, “Barney, when you spoke yesterday at the meeting, interrupting Sue and then Fred, the impact was that the table became silent and no more discussion took place…” My development opportunity was to use the same process for positive feedback.
Thanks Donna. I love a simple/actionable/pattern. So glad you stopped in today.
When the end-goal of feedback is the other person’s growth and success–which aligns with organizational success (and they see the end-goal too)–the process is much more effective and rewarding. Relationship is the crucial foundation, and trust is built on relationships. Relationship and trust allow open communication with limited defensiveness.
Thanks George. It really helps if we are all rowing in the same direction!
Your focus on relationships is a useful addition to this topic.
Thanks for the helpful language. Sometimes feel like my thoughtful intent is derailed by starting with the wrong words. One strategy that has worked for me is asking a question first. Letting them explain the situation rather than me “telling” them about a situation I may not have even witnessed often brings clarity to me and sometimes even to them. I end up not having to give any feedback because they have had an epiphany. Your articles are thought provoking and helpful. Thanks.
Thanks Patrick. YES…start with a question. The challenge here is to avoid an accusation.
Second-hand feedback is tough. Now you are speaking for others. That’s where #1 helps. “Just assume there’s a bit of truth in this. How would you make things better?”
I like Patrick’s approach.
I also like to start with questions. Get the person’s perspective on his/her behavior.
“Are you happy with the way you ran the meeting? …dealt with that customer? …presented you ideas? …resolved the conflict?”
Then I like to ask–“What changes do you think would improve results–make you more effective?”
Next question–“How can I help?”
Bottom line–if my feedback isn’t helpful–I’m wasting my time and his time. –not good.
Thanks Paul. Love the spirit you display. “How can I help,” goes a long way.
I find that your initial question assumes a no. “Are you happy with the way you ran the meeting?” It’s difficult to say, “Yes, I’m happy.”
I wonder about stating an intention. I’d like you to up your game in relation to running an organized meeting. (Be specific. Don’t just say meetings. It could be inviting others to speak, creating engagement, or describing the decision that needs to be made.)
What are you doing to organize your meetings?
This is what I see.
What else might you do?
How can I help?
If they don’t have ideas, ask, “Who runs organized meetings? Would you go to them for suggestions? Let’s debrief next week.”
Just some thoughts.
I totally agree. Sometimes I use more focused, leading question such as–
What could you do to improve the organization of the key points in your presentation?
I also like your idea of having people go and watch an expert run a meeting, make a sales call, deliver a presentation etc. and identify three things the expert does extremely well.
Thanks Paul. The idea of a focused, leading question made me smile. When the people around us trust us, I can see how this is powerful and useful. They can go with the flow, rather than wondering about your hidden agenda.
A very illustrative post Dan. I like the idea of drawing line of two opposite words and asking to position viewpoints. Further, reason for not putting cross closer to other side. I appreciate the concept. Actually it does not close the viewpoints of respondents. I agree that preconceived opinions hider the feedback process. Unfortunately, most raters fall into such practices. And makes the process draining.
We need to understand the purpose behind feedback. Therefore we need to questions whether purpose of feedback is met or defeated. Accordingly corrective measures should be initiated.
I support your concept of frequent feed backs. It creates confidence and rule out any biases.
Thank you Dr. Gupta. Wow! How could I miss the importance of purpose.
Before giving feedback, define the purpose for giving it. 🙂
“Give feedback immediately” includes “think before you speak” and the timing of that presentation can be crucial. Practicing and rehearsing your feedback (and preparing for potential replies) beforehand is so important to prepare for that moment to make it more effective. Those who speak (give feedback) before thinking often provide negative feedback that is detrimental whereas providing positive feedback on a negative issue moves the matter forward. All too often, feedback is given spontaneously and emotionally due to the circumstances when taking a few moments to better prepare and evaluate the overall situation benefits all involved. Take a deep breath, think before you deliver the feedback, and make it a positive experience. Great post. Thanks, Dan.
Thanks SGT. What I hear you saying is preparation is more important than immediacy. Makes sense.
Perhaps some depends on the relationship between giver and receiver. We’re more forgiving with people we know and trust.
Spontaneity has some potential drawbacks, especially if the issue is sensitive.
On the other hand, stress goes up the longer you wait. That has an impact on our effectiveness, as well.
Thanks for something to think about.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Great leaders solicit feedback from their people on how they might improve their leadership style.
Dan I really like the post. There are times where when I am being reviewed myself that I would like to hear some really good criticism for improvement. Sometimes when I only hear the good I feel like I’m only getting half the story. Or maybe I’m just paranoid! But I know nobody’s perfect!