Feedback is essential for our growth, our development and our ability to hit our goals.  So why is it so hard for people to give it and receive it?  I am not immune to this dilemma myself.  When someone wants to give me feedback, I can feel my heart start to race and my breathing become a bit shallower, and I can get defensive and try to explain myself.  Even when the feedback is positive, I find myself blushing or cutting the person off so that I can get out of the situation.  I used to think I was alone in this challenge, but I see it every day with the people I coach and teach.  The question is, “What to do about feedback?”

We have to understand that we need to give feedback.  It is even more important in this digital age.  A text, tweet or email is generally not the best way to deliver feedback.  The best way is face to face, but that may not always be possible. 

·       Try to deliver improvement feedback either face to face or on Skype so you can see the other person’s reaction.

·       Aim for a balance between direct and compassionate.

I see many people who are nervous giving feedback and who take one of two tracks:

1.      Get direct and get out of there!  Well, it is over quicker that way, but the receiver is left feeling run over and unsure how to move forward.

2.      Get vague, talk in generalities and hope the receiver translates the message.  I tend to have this challenge. The problem is that, while it may make the deliverer feel better, the goal is really for the person and/or the process to improve.

Some of the best practices for effective feedback delivery include:

·       Have a clear intention for the feedback

·       Find a good time for both of you to be able to have a productive conversation

·       Find a good location

·       Be specific in the feedback

·       Ask for feedback from the recipient regarding what they think about the feedback they received

·       Determine the next steps and accountability for the next steps

·       Thank the recipient for participating.

Notice what type of feedback you normally give.   A good book to use is Leadership Conversations:  Challenging High Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders by Alan Berson and Richard Steiglitz.

 A model that I like from the book is ACE.  This describes three types of feedback:

1.    Appreciation

2.    Coaching

3.    Evaluation

All three types of feedback are critical, but it is important to know:

·       What type of feedback you are planning to give

·       Your intention for the session. 

If you plan on talking about performance and then spend most of the time in appreciation, the message about performance gets lost.  Similarly, if you only ever give me feedback about ways to improve and never provide recognition, I want to start avoiding you like the plague!  

Feedback Goals

·       Clarity

·       Provide all three types of feedback over the course of a year

·       Be open to feedback yourself.

One final note:  give feedback often.  One of my clients called me in to do a 3-way conversation because the top two leaders would battle each other. We were able to get to a good place after about three meetings over four days, but there were a lot of hurt feelings.  The root causes were that neither person really gave the other feedback, that each made assumptions about the way the other was acting, and that each leader was judging themselves by their intentions.  We were locked in a dramatic scene that could have been made into a movie.  However, once we set some clear expectations, shared some feedback, and looked for ways to recognize each other’s strengths, we were able to find common ground.  The two leaders now meet weekly to share feedback so that it does not build up so much.

Who do you think you want to give feedback to?  Take a moment to plan it out, take a deep breath and go do it.