How To Offer Feedback Without Hurting People
I’m a member of the Global Speakers federation group on LinkedIn. A discussion got started asking the question, “How To Offer Feedback Without Hurting People?” Well, that got me thinking. I’m always working with diverse ranges of people. Most are leaders of sorts with a genuine desire to develop. They are there willingly, often proactively getting themselves booked and there. They’d be disappointed, even angry, if they didn’t get feedback as without it, that arena where we don’t know ourselves but others do remains invisible to us.
However, I still do work with groups that are there because they have to be – the boss made them. Not quite ordered to attend by the courts but the next best (worst) thing attitude-wise for new trainers starting out, or at least they might think it is. (It isn’t.)
Marlene and Stephen from the LinkedIn group were right on in making the first step getting permission from the intended recipient of the feedback. That said, even if they don’t want feedback, they may still need feedback and if it’s your role to provide it, you still should. At least you know from seeking permission what their likely response could be and you can work around it.
For most standard training situations, most people are there to learn and open to feedback. We should have framed feedback early on as an essential component in our ongoing personal and professional development and if we did that well, then no worries. I generally use a format of STOP, START, CONTINUE which covers the whole corrective:supportive ratio requirements. (Yes, I use terms like ‘corrective’ and ‘supportive’ rather than ‘bad’ and ‘good’ or even ‘negative’ and ‘positive’. To me feedback is just information, using judgemental labels like positive and negative doesn’t help. They’ll add their own emotions to it.) Ideally, I’d try and get people to assess their own performance first against predefined and objective standards. Did they demonstrate the skill rather than did I think what they did was right or wrong.
Kind of an oldie but I like the simple B.E.S.T when it comes to feedback, on the job or in training or in life generally – describe a Behaviour, take their self Esteem into account, be Specific and make it Timely.
Feedback falling on deaf ears needs a witty saying like that tree that falls in the empty forest. I worked with a guy once who claimed to have had 20 years of retail experience but from his performance and attitude, we could all see that he’d actually had one year of retail experience twenty times….