Now it’s your turn. The boss gives you some feedback, often not very clear. You tough it out, keep your emotions firmly in check and do your best to get out of the room as quickly as possible. Later you scratch your head about what the boss meant exactly and what if anything you can do about it. Often you ask yourself why hearing feedback is so hard.
In today’s environment, facilitating positive change in the workplace has become an essential skill for executives and managers. Becoming masterful at giving feedback can make the difference between a high performing, highly motivated team and one that achieves less than its potential. Learning to solicit and make the most of feedback about your own performance can accelerate your professional growth as well.
What makes feedback so difficult? International leadership coach David Rock in his book Your Brain At Work (Harper Collins 2009) says that "giving feedback often creates an intense threat response" in the brain. So it is important to create a sense of safety when giving feedback. How can you do this?
- Prepare yourself thoughtfully beforehand. Make sure your motivation is generous and your approach is respectful.
- Understand that hearing any negative feedback is emotionally challenging for everyone. But trust that, unless the person has mental health issues, he or she is capable of hearing and eventually processing the feedback.
- Stay calm, patient and accepting, create a safe space to make any reasonable reaction "OK".
- Make it a conversation, invite thinking and insights from the person receiving the feedback. People are more likely to act on their own insights rather than your directions and advice about what to do about the feedback.
- Be clear and precise about what specific behaviour you wish to see. Do not attribute motives as to why a person is or is not behaving a certain way.
- Do not back away from precise feedback. The person hearing the feedback needs to know exactly what you want from them.