One of the biggest problems I have found when training people in the Art of Feedback is dealing with cold, stark fear. The reasons are often given as a fear of causing distress or worse creating conflict. Indeed I have long thought we should be running workshops on how to ask for and to receive feedback rather than how to give it. Most people I speak to have had such bad experiences from being given bad and unhelpful feedback they are afraid to give any, however important, themselves.
Everyone knows that badly given feedback creates defensiveness and confrontation and often focuses on what went wrong. This kind of feedback does not improve skills or knowledge and usually undermines people’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Of course they may or may not respond in the heat of the moment but if they don’t comment I have no doubt they will inwardly plot revenge. Some of the senior managers I meet today still carry the scars and the hatred gained in earlier times from bosses with no sensitivity or skill.
To give feedback effectively we need to be sure there is going to be something in it for the receiver. There is absolutely no benefit in giving feedback to someone who isn’t willing to listen. Good feedback creates trust and co-operation. It should focus on improvements, those which are possible and on those which are already achieved. Good feedback needs to be able to help someone to increase skill or knowledge as well as improving the receiver’s self-confidence in his or her own ability and potential.
The ideal is to create a climate of trust where people seek out feedback on their own performance and ask for help in finding new and different ways of working. This can be achieved by creating and agreeing a contract to openly discuss issues. Inviting the recipient to assess their own performance first before offering ongoing support leaves them feeling helped and their feelings acknowledged. One of the most impressive business gurus I saw was at a conference run by CIPD. Benjamin Zander who conducts the Boston Youth Orchestra and Boston Philharmonic believes that if you treat everyone who comes to work for you as A grade they will respond to tuition as A graders do by expecting and requesting feedback.
Why not try it and see.
Download free Guidelines for Giving Feedback