Key Point: If you learn how to present constructive feedback, in a very direct, raw, data supported, and reasoned way, you will become an even more valuable leader, partner or teammate. The world is full of mushy, oblique, smoke blowing people, who avoid constructive criticism because they fear the conflict and/or simply don’t care enough. And based on the sloppy way some people give and receive feedback, that is understandable. But when you connect with people who really know how to give and take value driven criticism you can achieve better results and at an interpersonal level, mutual respect and confidence increases.
My experience is that relationships deteriorate when people sit on “stuff.” Over time, frustration builds and the proverbial straw eventually breaks the camel’s back. Some of the most difficult bosses are those that keep you guessing how they want you to behave. You rarely get feedback, but one day, some seemingly small thing becomes explosive and the relationship slips backwards. I recently participated in a thorough assessment of very high achieving executives. While I have been involved in many of these types of evaluations, this particular process was more powerful and impactful than most. When I review what was different about this approach, the ” areas to work on” were presented to the recipients in hard hitting and direct ways by skilled professionals AND the execs receiving the insights were able to put their ample egos on the shelf, opening them selves to meaningful self-development. There was serious intent and skill all the way around.
In a great HBR article, Don’t Sugarcoat Negative Feedback, it reinforces this viewpoint: “If you want to help a person change restrict your sugarcoating to breakfast cereals. Deliver constructive feedback rapidly in its raw form. This doesn’t mean harshly; there’s a way to soften blows without delaying them if you strive to be empathic. Just never make it seem like you’re avoiding hard cold facts. All that does is make the facts seem worse than they are.”
The article goes on to provide another important insight about giving feedback that I share: “Any and all of my success as a coach is because I internalized an observation by Anais Nin: ‘We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.’ Constructive criticism and your plan(s) for having someone address the flaws you see emanate from your worldview. To have these well-intended messages hit home, you must understand your audience and tailor your feedback to their needs.”
- Prepare WHAT you’re going to say. Be respectful and empathetic by being direct, clear, and reasoned in your feedback. Support your insights with data. Point to facts and behavior. Describe impact and consequences. Being direct doesn’t mean shooting from the hip.
- Prepare HOW you are going to deliver. Present feedback for the recipient, NOT for you. Understand who you are presenting to, and determine the best way to give information and insight that demonstrates you appreciate their needs. Timing and approach requires knowing your audience.
- Present caring feedback from the perspective of GIVING the other something to meaningfully work on rather than TAKING a chunk out of their side.
No Fruit Loop Feedback in The Triangle,