Let's face it: If feedback were always pleasant, we wouldn't have to tack on the word "constructive."
Even at its best, getting feedback isn't exactly fun. Just notice how you feel when someone says "Hey, can I give you some constructive feedback?"
Right away our guard goes up.
In fact if you're at all like me, you might smile and rise to the occasion—but on the inside you're thinking Here we go or Hit the deck!
It helps to be able to laugh about this.
But of course no company or relationship can thrive without feedback. Which is why I put together this list: to help you give feedback when necessary—with minimal drama and maximum results. It starts with knowing what not to do.
11 Pitfalls to Avoid
- Escalating the conflict. Examples of how this happens: condescension, offhand remarks about something unrelated, or launching into a tirade. "If you speak when angry, you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." — Groucho Marx
- Criticizing the person. If you want the best chance of being heard and respected, stay focused on the issue.
- Staying stuck in the problem. Instead, move the conversation as quickly as possible to the desired solution.
- Making it public. Show respect by taking the feedback behind closed doors.
- Ignoring context. Good leaders know that the company holiday party, the team golf outing, or the employee's birthday are not the time to get into sticky subjects.
- Implicating the whole group. Example: One person on the team has a performance issue. Rather than issuing a group statement, hoping someone will take the hint, a good leader takes it up with the individual.
- Disregarding their own role. Good leaders ask questions like "Did I set out clear expectations?" and "Have I done my part to set the employee up for success?"
- Procrastination. The sooner you address someone's performance, the sooner they can correct it—and the less damage it will do to the rest of the team.
- Ambushing the person receiving it. For example, everyone knows a performance review is not the place to bring up a new issue. Yet it happens. The best leaders make sure it doesn't happen with them.
- Burying the message. Before you sit someone down to address an issue, get clear on the behavior you need to see instead. Make sure this is clearly communicated to the person you're addressing.
- Leaving out consequences. Look for ways to build in accountability. What results are you after and by when? How will you know if the results have been achieved? What happens if they aren't?
Feedback might not always be pleasant, it might not always be graceful. But it's necessary for the recipient and/or the team.
Criticism, on the other hand, is leveled for the speaker's benefit—and deep down both parties know it.
Be a great leader. Whether at work or at home, show consideration for how your feedback will be received. You'll be rewarded with greater influence and greater respect.