Deliver it Right! – Developmental Feedback
Organization goals are realized when every employee contributes to its success. Managers play a critical role in ensuring that their team members contribute effectively. One of the mechanisms they use to drive such productivity is feedback. When there is such a great impetus on feedback and it is used so often,then managers should be adept in offering it, right?
However, a study reveals that 58% of managers think that they provide enough feedback,whereas employees say that only 28% of times it is given well!
We understand that well-provided feedback propelsteam towardsdesired change and every manager intends to do so. Having said this, according to the above statistics, we see a gap between intention and action in delivering feedback.
Let us consider a situation.
George leads a team of five members. A task that one of his team members, Reena, did was not up to mark. He discussed this with her over a cup of coffee. However, he could not recall details when she requested for specific inputs. But, as he sensed that there may be escalations regarding her task outcome, he thought the discussion was critical and continued with it. Reena started to argue and soon, began fidgeting with her fingers, developed minimal eye contact with him and sported an impassive look. He felt that she became defensive and closed. George was troubled by her behavior, as according to him, he not only offered her the feedback but also suggested ways for improvement. He reflected on several tough feedbackconversations that he had with his managerand recalled that he was very open to receiveit. After this discussion with Reena, he was puzzled and started thinking on what went wrong?
George thought that he actually may have contributed to Reena’s behavior as he had not paid much attention on being prepared for this feedback session.
True! One cannot undermine the role of a manager’s readiness for such important discussions. If they are ready, probability of inducingwillingness in team members to receive feedback goes up.
If you are a manager, here is how you can be ready for such discussions.
- Prepare well:Would you like it if your manager considered feedback session as just anotherdiscussion?The answer is obvious. Therefore,efforts on part of the manager must be visible. This may be by ensuring sufficient data points, referring to notes and unlike George, ensuring exclusive time and space for the discussion.
- Empathize genuinely: Put yourself in the shoes of recipient and think about how you would like to receive feedback. Empathy has the ability to transform a conversation.
- Tune attitude: It is easy to provide positive feedback as it usually generates ready acceptance from the recipient. However, many managers experience discomfort when offering negative feedback. In such discussions, it is important to practice tolerance and demonstrate a caring attitude. By consciously taking your attention away from people and focusing on actual behavior, you provide them a safe ground to learn.
- Create readiness: Being prepared is one side of the coin; the other side is to prepare the recipient for feedback. Studies of Carol Dweck, the author of ‘Mindset – The New Psychology of Success’ reveals that people with fixed mindset react sharply to developmental feedback and people with a growth mindset take it in the right stride. So, how do you nurturegrowth mindset in your team members?Just by making minor modification in the way you communicate. For example: Replace statement like, “You are a natural at coding” with “I am impressed with your improvement in coding over the last three months”.
While there is a merit in nurturing openness in team members to receive feedback, you also need to ensure such discussionsare comfortable.Focus on possibilities and solutions by asking them how they would drive results if given another opportunity. This feed-forward technique eliminates apprehension of personal attack and creates opportunities for meaningful discussions as it generates a feeling of inclusion, careand trust.
Receptivity of feedback is also influenced by the way it is communicated. To make feedback developmental, acceptable and action-based, it should be:
- Genuine: Your team member may gaugeyour sincerity by your words, body language and tone. Doyou seem calm, confident, friendly and concerned for them or come across as diffident, complaining and hostile? Demonstrate eagerness to understand their point of view and don’t show that you are closed. You need to be conscious about these subtleties especially while you are delivering negative feedback.
- Personalize: Your team members may come from radically different contexts, have varied understanding levels and viewpoints.Hence, something that makes sense for one member may not make sense for another. Spend some time in knowing your members so that you can personalize your feedback to their suitability.
- Objective:While you give feedback quote real instances and be objective. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t provide generic feedback or drop hints asit might create undue tension. Moreover, as there is no room for bias or uncertainty with objective feedback, you appear more credible.It is also easier for your team members to work on such feedback.
Saying, “Your presentation was clear and addressed the three points as expected by customers. However, transition between different ideas could have been better” provides clear pointers for action than saying, “Your presentation skills need improvement.”
To conclude, try not to be a George! It is possible to make employees look forward to developmental feedback by delivering it the right way. Well-delivered feedback could be a great way to improve productivity and morale of team members to gain competitive advantage as an organization.