Feedback, Honesty and Kindness
Feedback is a gift. Giving honest feedback is about caring for your co-workers and working through difficult yet fruitful conversations. It is not okay to deprive someone of the opportunity to develop themselves so that you can avoid being uncomfortable. Listening and conveying genuine gratitude when handling feedback will improve the odds of a successful feedback session.
Receiving feedback is about improving yourself. Whether or not you agree with the input, it’s valuable information about you, your colleagues, and your team; be grateful for it.
Soliciting and Receiving Feedback
Unsolicited feedback is often not well received, but there is an easy fix for this. Easy fix, just solicit it. Feedback is meant to be thoughtful, and thinking takes time.
First, explain how their feedback impacts the success of the company, then solicit the feedback with a minimum of 24 hours of advance. Go ahead, take a second to look at your scheduled 1-on-1s, ask each participant to bring feedback to you — about you — as well as about anyone or anything else.
If there are folks you manage, it is your responsibility to solicit third-party feedback about them. This will help you smooth out your unconscious biases and blind spots. Request this feedback ahead of time.
Listening should feel like your superpower. While receiving feedback, say: “thank you” and take notes. While you are encouraged to ask clarifying questions, do not attempt to explain, do not attempt to refute, do not try to justify. Feedback is not always factual, but it is always 100% correct from the perspective of the person who is giving it. How the person feels is all that matters at this point and their feedback should be rewarded.
Increase your odds of receiving honest feedback by providing a safe environment, a safety net. Remember that giving feedback is not easy, which leads us to the next section.
You’ve thought long and hard about how to help a colleague by giving them thoughtful, constructive feedback. Don’t shortchange your delivery; maximize your chances of having your feedback be well received.
Give the person receiving feedback a heads-up, and make a habit out of it. A 30–60 minute heads-up tends to work better than a few days as it minimizes unnecessary anxiety. A simple: “I have some feedback for you I will share at today’s 1-on-1” will do. Additionally, once this process becomes a habit, the person will always expect feedback, and therefore will likely be much more open to receiving it.
Be honest with your feedback, but above all, be kind. Each person is facing challenges we do not know. The fact that we don’t know does not grant us the right to be unkind. In the spirit of staying honest, give positive feedback in abundance when available, don’t hold back. Positive feedback accrues interest only once you’ve given it.
Keep feedback objective. “I think,” “I rather,” “I wish,” are generally lousy ways to give feedback. Even though you are the one delivering the message, your main goal here is to help the person who is receiving it. Your sentiments and agenda should not cloud your words.
Focus on behavior and not the person. Our behavior shapes us; we are not our behavior. For example, if someone must improve their ability to communicate when a project is late, don’t tell them they are a bad communicator; instead, let them know you want to help them improve their communication skills.
Make feedback precise. Whenever possible, give feedback in the context of a recent situation with an explanation of how their behavior impacted the outcome. The other side of this coin is to be mindful and validate trends before calling a one-off out as a trend. Feedback that is seen as a nitpick is likely to be ineffective.
Above all, be honest and be kind.
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