Have “the conversation” today. Give feedback. Here’s how.

afraid to give feedbackThere are lots of “messy” conversations you’re avoiding.  While a face to face conversation is often “best,” most people need an anonymous and real-time method.  If that’s you I’m talking about…try  HowMyDoin today!

But if you’re ready for the in-person feedback, and need to have “the conversation” today, don’t be afraid.  Here’s how.

Why Give Feedback?

Maybe your colleague keeps texting during meetings.  Maybe your boss repeatedly cancels meetings at the last minute.  Or maybe a new direct report constantly interrupts you and finishes your sentences – incorrectly.

When complaining to your trusted friends, they all tell you the same thing: you need to hit the situation head-on; have “the conversation” and give the feedback.

But giving constructive feedback can be emotionally draining and interpersonally challenging.  But why?  What’s so hard about giving and receiving feedback?

The reasons are many.  The process can go so awry for a variety of reasons.  So before you get started, it is important to analyze and understand more precisely the dynamics from both perspectives: through the eyes of the giver of feedback and the receiver’s.

Giver’s Perspective

Let’s start with the giver’s perspective.  From their vantage point, they have some particular objectives or needs.  Some common motivations of feedback givers include:

1) Frustration. Some behaviors are just plain frustrating.  Giving feedback helps you get it off your chest.  Just make sure you’re not venting, after you have let the pressure build too long.  Cool your jets before you have the conversation.  Get into a relaxed state of mind, as much as you can.

2) A Gift.  This is the best reason to give feedback. The goal here is to genuinely help them understand their behavior, and their impact on others.  Have a “gift-giving” mindset to help you frame the conversation.  It’s like telling somebody they have spinach stuck between their teeth.

3) Results.  Sometime another’s behavior is hurting results, or impairing teammates’ abilities to get work done.  These conversations are really “performance management” feedback meetings.  This type of feedback will be related to their end of year evaluation, potentially.  Keep that in mind.

The SBI Model9735475_s

The feedback-giving model that the Center for Creative Leadership recommends is called SBI: Situation – Behavior – Impact. Using this model, the giver of feedback should first describe the situation in which the behavior occurred. This might include the time and place. Next, the particular behavior observed is described.  By describing the behavior in very objective terms, the receiver can understand what he or she actually did.  Lastly, the feedback giver discusses what impact the behavior had on thoughts, feelings and behaviors — for themselves as well as others.  For a more elaborate description of the SBI model, click here.

Receiver’s Perspective

From a receiver’s perspective, there are three reasons why feedback doesn’t go so well.

1) Validity.  The receiver will question the validity or truthfulness of the feedback.  Is there a hidden agenda?  They’ll question the “why” behind the feedback.  Basically, they may doubt that it is accurate, relevant or helpful.  Expect skepticism to be part of the receiver’s mindset.

2) Source. Receivers of feedback have difficulty appreciating feedback from “certain sources.” Some bosses will not receive any critical feedback from subordinates. Regardless of the validity, they can’t “hear it” if it’s coming from a direct report, or a peer they don’t fully respect.

3) Ego. Some types of feedback goes straight to the core of our being.  Being told we are arrogant, or a poor leader, or self-centered, goes to the root of our identity.  To digest this type of feedback, or even hear it, requires a strong ego.

A recent book by Doug Stone and Sheila Heen, called Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well explores much more deeply these factors. (A great read!)

Feedback Tips

  • Use Empathy.  In addition using the SBI model giving feedback, it’s important to continually look at the dialogue from the receiver’s perspective.  Basically, show empathy.  Put yourself in their shoes.  How would you like somebody to give you feedback?
  • Give Positive Feedback. Remember, “feedback” is not synonymous with “negative feedback.”  If you use the SBI model for positive feedback, it’s incredibly useful and it helps the receiver get used to feedback from you.
  • Practice. As they say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice does.”  Giving and receiving feedback involves a set of skills to be developed.  Like anything you want to get better at, you must practice.
  • Use Chunks.  Consider “chunking” feedback into much smaller “bite sized” pieces, and then consider sequencing the conversations.  Start with small chunks, rather than large complex types of feedback.
  • Start Easy.  Consider giving easy, less emotionally charged feedback first.  Rather than discussing somebody’s “big ego” behaviors, start with their overuse of ALL CAPS in emails.
  • Receive it Yourself.  Start asking for feedback yourself.  When you ask for feedback, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for how difficult it is to receive feedback.
  • Leverage Tools.  Consider using 360° feedback tools, or other formalized systems to begin the conversations.  Don’t let the feedback tools do all the work.  You’ve got to have the real conversations to bring out the full value of multi-rater feedback.

Beta test HowMyDoin, “the future of feedback”, today.  Set up an account for free!


About Curt Buermeyer

I am the founder and president of LeadPeople. I hope you enjoyed this post and encourage you to subscribe to receive these in your inbox. Thanks for visiting!

Leave a Reply