Is Giving Feedback a Problem?

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Hey Hey it’s Fridaaaaaay!

I hope your week has gone well.

This was going to be a short one but it got away from me. I hope you find it useful. Feedback is such a powerful tool … when used for good and not for evil!

Join the conversation in the comments and pass on to someone you feel may get some benefit from it. The more the merrier! 🥳

Don’t stress!

Bill


The Steel Shavings Incident!

Growing up in Albany, Western Australia, we often existed shoeless. In the house, backyard, beach. Shoes were not the norm. Church? Yes, we wore shoes in church! And we’d visit my dad at the engineering business he owned for over 40 years. I would have been 6 or 7 at the time of the “incident”. I’d be so keen to see all the big machines (lathes, drill presses, metal saws and other stuff). I didn’t see the steel shavings on the floor around the lathes. These were curled up pieces of metal that flew off the lathes. Sharp as razor wire to the bare foot of a 6 year old, or any-year-old for that matter.

Imagine stepping on something that cuts into you and you jump from the pain of the cut and then have to land, and, in that instant (less than a second), have to decide where to land so you don’t get cut again!

I can remember still, the cotton wool … and the blood! So. Much. Blood. 🩸

So, without any fear or favour, my dad would yell, “Next time put some bloody shoes on!” Not one for showing sympathy, the old man! Feedback was great though! 👍

Feedback

Feedback is one of those topics that gets a bad rap! Mainly because when we think of feedback, we think “negative”, or the more politically correct “constructive” feedback.

Perhaps it’s also because it is uncomfortable to give negative feedback. What if they disagree? What if they don’t accept it? What if they challenge me? All awkward situations for sure.

But, like a good joke, it’s all in the delivery!

Little and Often

The key to giving better feedback is to make it like it’s almost nothing. (Almost!)

If you leave feedback for a “later time”, it loses all effect. If we delay feedback, it’s certainly easier to be challenged with “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” For which we need to have a really good answer! Which we won’t, but we’ll try. At this point I’d suggest putting the shovel down and stop digging the hole you’re in!

But if it’s little (meaning small) and often, this doesn’t happen.

Think of a situation where you need to give feedback, think of something small and not inflammatory for now. Maybe late to a meeting, late to work, forgot something.

Keep it small and follow these guidelines*:

  1. Ask permission: hey can I give you some feedback? [Sure]
  2. Describe the factswhen you’re late to the meeting
  3. Describe a consequence: we need to stop and catch you up. That’s not great!
  4. Ask for a change: can you fix that next time? [Okay]
  5. Say thanks: Thanks! 😉

That’s it! Takes less than 10 seconds and, because it’s factual, it’s hard to challenge. It also leaves the person with the autonomy of how they’re going to fix it. Have you noticed adults don’t like being told what to do? Who knew?

Why so negative?

Some of you reading this will think, people do good things too. Do we not give them feedback?

Absolutely! (See the “Homework” below.)

The same steps apply.

  1. Ask permission: hey can I give you some feedback? [Sure]
  2. Describe the factswhen you’re prepared for the meeting like you were
  3. Describe a consequence: it makes the process so much better and we achieve a lot more in the meeting! That’s awesome!
  4. Ask for a continuance: You’re leading by example. Keep it up! [Okay]
  5. Say thanks: Thanks! 🙌

Note: be specific with positive feedback as well. “Good job!” doesn’t cut it! Be observant, what did they do that was good? ← That’s what you tell them!

Here’s the problem

When we don’t provide feedback, we let it fester. Time goes by and after a time, it’s too late to give the feedback about the thing. Even if it’s good feedback. 

When that happens, as a leader or manager, I make the decision that the problem is now me, not them! I need to be better! (You may decide differently.)

We need to acknowledge that people tend to doubt themselves. Without feedback, they may decide what they did was not good enough or incorrect and change their behaviour … because you didn’t give them the feedback! 🤯

The … “Homework”

Even with such a simple process, giving feedback can be difficult. 

Start off by looking for what people do right and provide that feedback. No negative/constructive feedback, unless of course it’s mission critical. That’s your call.

Look for something good each day. Because it’s positive you can leave out the “ask permission” step but I’d advise you to use it. When you get to providing negative/constructive feedback, it’ll roll off the tongue.

Being positive consistently generates better behaviour in other areas. People like being liked and accepted. When positive feedback comes, it generates a perspective of acceptance, so other behaviours adjust to this. It’s like someone not wanting to let their boss down. It’s not 100% failsafe, people still screw up, but you may be surprised how well this works.

In the Human Synergistics Circumplex** tool, research suggests that by building one component, say Humanistic-Encouraging (1 on the circumplex), the opposite behaviour, Oppositional (7), a negative behaviour, will lessen. The opposite is also true! 😬

Summary

Determine to give feedback little and often. Look for ways to provide positive feedback. Be specific. What is it you liked? Become comfortable with giving feedback. So many times I heard people say, “The only time I get feedback is when I’ve done something wrong!” We can change that! Today!

And hey, if you do mess it up occasionally, remember … #dontstress! Go again!


*The team I sourced this from are Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne from Manager Tools. Easily the best business podcast and website. Simple but effective, and great value for money if you’re wanting to dig into all the tools they offer, which are many. 

**I am not a qualified consultant of Human Synergistics. I was involved with their work in a company that engaged them for their expertise. Hence my knowledge of the tool.


BONUS MATERIAL

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat! Personal feedback!

Yes, you can apply this to yourself! How good is that? 🙌

Rather than beat yourself up when you make a mistake, and we all know we are our own worst critic, here’s a practice you can use to break that habit.

Next time …

Using the feedback steps above, add these steps to your self talk.

  1. Hey, I was late to a meeting.
  2. When I’m late to meetings, it puts the team off, slows us all down and I am playing catch up! And stressed!
  3. Next time … I’ll [and now add what you’ll do next time to prevent being late to meetings!]

Take notice of areas you want to improve. Use this method to bring your automatic behaviours to your conscious attention and make changes to readjust your automatic behaviours.

Personal example: I’m working on my health and part of that is getting a better night’s sleep. Sometimes a glass of wine can disrupt that. So, when I’m thinking of having a wine, here’s my “Next time …”:

  1. Fact (for me, you do you): Hey, when I drink wine at night …
  2. Consequence … It disrupts my sleep …
  3. Next time … I think of having a wine at night, I’ll grab a glass of water instead.

Feedback welcome! 😉 ← see what I did there?


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