“Oh No, Not More Feedback!”

Delivering Powerful Feedback

Have you ever cringed when the person you report to said he/she wanted to give you feedback? Why is that?

  • Maybe it was a bad experience in the past?
  • You felt judged or criticized?
  • Too general? Lacking details and facts of the situation?
  • Not delivered in a timely manner?
  • Conversation was one-way? No opportunity to voice your thoughts and ideas?
  • Feedback given is rarely on what you’re doing well? Most of the feedback received is how you’re falling short of expectations?

Whatever your personal reasons are, as a leader it is your responsibility to develop and grow those you are entrusted to lead – to help the members of your team realize their full potential. Providing timely and specific feedback that is positive and constructive is a critical component of your leadership role.

Earlier this year, I joined the team at Interaction Associates (http://www.interactionassociates.com) for several months to deliver an experiential workshop, “Leader as Coach”, to several thousand managers and executives. It was part of a broader initiative to help the client company evolve from a performance “management” to a performance “development” culture. The premise of the workshop is that giving feedback is one type of coaching conversation that aims to enhance employees’ self-awareness, ability and confidence. Through skillful listening, asking powerful questions and speaking as an “ally” in service of the employee’s development, giving high-impact feedback is an integral part of a leader’s job description.

In order to deliver feedback in a way that it can be received well and acted upon in a positive manner, Interaction Associates recommends a 5-step SBICA Process* that is easy to understand and with practice, easy to apply.

  1. Name the Situation - Be clear about the context of the feedback (i.e., the where, what, when and whom of the situation being discussed). For example: “I’d like to share my observations of you at yesterday’s Project X meeting and discuss how we can make future meetings more effective.”
  2. Describe the Behavior – Share what you specifically heard, saw, and experienced vs. making assumptions and/or drawing your own conclusions (i.e., based on your interpretations of what you observed or what others said). Keep to the facts (observable behaviors and actions) so there is little or no debate with your employee. Example: “In the meeting yesterday, you interrupted John and Janice on two occasions giving your ideas before they could share their thoughts completely.”
  3. Describe the Impact – State how the employee’s behavior affected you, others, the business, etc.. The intent here is to help the person understand the consequences of his/her action(s) so as to motivate a change in behavior going forward. Be careful not to overdo it here. Once your team member grasps the “reality” of his/her actions, pause and let it sink in and allow for the employee to speak. Example: “John and Janice stopped contributing for the rest of the meeting and so did several others. The solutions and action plans arrived at did not reflect the best thinking of the team.”
  4. Discover the Cause – This step is where you engage the employee in giving his/her perception of the situation and explore through questions and active listening what caused or contributed to his/her behavior. Remember, this is a two-way coaching conversation aimed at creating a shared understanding and commitment to change going forward.
  5. Agree on Alternate Behavior – If you’ve done the first 4 steps well, the employee should be ready to explore what he/she will do differently going forward to generate the intended results for all concerned. Once again, use a coaching approach by asking questions to draw out his/her ideas and to outline any next steps. Be ready to support your employee in a way that encourages and empowers the agreed upon new behaviors.

In closing, not only is this feedback process effective for positively changing one’s behavior and performance, but also to acknowledge and reinforce what your employees are doing right! When giving praise, use the first 3 steps to insure the person knows specifically what he/she has done and the positive impact he/she is having on the organization. By being timely and specific with the feedback you give while using a coaching mindset, the reaction to feedback will change to one of “Excellent, bring it on!!”

* © Interaction Associates. Used with permission.