Don't fall victim to these 5 mistakes even best leaders make when giving feedback
- January 13, 2021, 5-min. read -
When you ask people about feedback, they usually refer to times such as the annual appraisal or criticism following some wrongdoing. However, these types of feedback - that are, for obvious reasons, often avoided or even feared - represent just the tip of the iceberg of what feedback truly is. Through our lives, we are surrounded by various forms of what one would call 'good feedback' that helps us learn and grow into fully functioning and successful adults.
...when we're approached with an offer of some 'constructive feedback,' we tend to feel threatened, anxious, and uncertain...
To understand this phenomenon, we need to tip into our evolutionary instincts to survive. We are pre-dispositioned to perceive danger, even where such a threat may not exist. So when we're approached with an offer of some 'constructive feedback,' we tend to feel threatened, anxious, and uncertain. By avoiding these common mistakes that even the most senior leaders make when giving feedback, you can make your well-intentioned advice much more actionable, useful - and even welcome.
1 | Not giving or asking for feedback. At all.
As simple as it may sound, feedback is an excellent opportunity for leaders and managers to ultimately deliver upon a promise of creating a place for continuous development. When feedback is well-timed and structured, it leads to improvement. Even though adopting and encouraging a culture of feedback can bring countless benefits, every second employee (across various surveys) stated they lacked feedback entirely.
As they say, not even Rome wasn't built in a day. Introducing a culture of feedback that is sustainable calls for a systematic approach.
Creating a safe space for reflecting should be your first step. Psychological safety allows your employees to become more collaborative, creative, and productive. Think of a place where everyone feels comfortable in their working environment, brings new ideas to the table, offers feedback, and takes part in a discussion - all without fear of judgment or repercussion.
Make the conversation a two-way street. There's nothing like leading by example, creating a picture of what's possible. Encourage people to make the feedback a reciprocate process and ask for some yourself. Regularly.
Make it a routine. Practice makes perfect, and when feedback is part of everyday conversations, it becomes expected and integrated into everything we do.
2 | Using banned phrases.
Words carry great power. Especially when being distanced and limited to communication via chat or video call, they must be picked with extra care. Some are known to - quite literally - kill even the most well-intentioned feedback:
3 | Giving feedback on personality rather than actions.
By giving feedback on personal qualities or personality, people lose motivation in a blink. Anyone can change actions and performance to improve and try to achieve a different result. But there is a fine line between saying: "you did this wrong" and "you are wrong."
There is a fine line between saying: "you did this wrong" and "you are wrong.
4 | The right time is always right now.
Timing is important. Especially in a busy schedule, it is easy to leave the ship sail without offering feedback timely. Do not wait for days to pass as the topic can lose its relevance - or worse - the problem can deepen. Instead, offer constructive feedback right away. But keep in mind a proper way to do so. Dedicate the right time, deliver the message privately. Be specific and straightforward.
Thanks to modern technology, leaders and managers no longer have to rely on old fashion approaches. Advanced feedback tools, like Feedback+ by LutherOne, offer an interactive & safe system allowing to share feedback on most common workplace situations with just a couple of clicks.
The feedback tools provide a clear structure and language, designed especially to avoid the risk of distortion and misunderstandings, save time by simplifying feedback in just a few clicks, and, allow to safely process any emotions without the pressure of an immediate response.
5 | Sugarcoating is for apples or nuts, not feedback.
Sugarcoating, or 'emphatic buffering,' as described by Michael Schaerer, Ph.D., is a phenomenon of people holding back criticism to spare the other person's feelings. This (un)conscious softening has proven to lead to misunderstandings where corrective feedback either gets lost, misinterpreted as a positive one, or understood for what it is - a sweet and sticky awkwardness.
Feedback, the breakfast of champions
Taking the time to recognize employees is fundamental to keeping people engaged and productive. Effective feedback helps them understand their strengths and development areas to promote personal & professional growth. Staying on top of your business also means intervening when people derail and when their performance in terms of quality or quantity is no longer in line with the expectations. In other words, your feedback can make or break your team.
Therefore, mastering effective communication & feedback skills should be a priority for any successful leader. Practice makes perfect - and maybe with a little help of technology - you can hack your team to greater productivity no matter where they're working from.