Giving others feedback is one of the more difficult jobs of a leader. It can be so uncomfortable. We know we have to do it and do it well. But we can’t see an easy way. So plow through it quickly to get it over with, delay it (sometimes for way too long), try to get someone else to do it, or (shudder) send it in an email.
Here’s a method for giving great feedback that anyone can do in, usually, five minute or less.
- Prepare: Set you intent. You are here to help them succeed more. See them as more than capable of hearing this feedback and creatively resolving it with you. Choose a neutral, clear, friendly tone. Plan the sentences in the next section before you meet to give the feedback. Find a safe, private place to meet.
- Open with one, compact sentence. (“I have some feedback to share with you.”)
- State the problematic behavior specifically and in one, compact sentence. (“I notice you tend to cut off clients and colleagues when they are speaking.”)
- State the desired behavior in one, compact sentence. (“Instead, please listen carefully until they have finished speaking.”)
- State the rationale in one, compact sentence. Choose a rationale that aligns with their motivators. (“People will trust you more if you do.” or “You will get their buy in much quicker.”)
- Check: Ask them to say to you–in their words–what they just heard you say. “So that we are both on the same page, please tell me what you heard me say.”
- Clarify: Invite them to ask any questions they may have. Answer their questions. Avoid getting defensive. If you don’t know an answer, tell them that you will find out and follow up later. If they get way too upset, stop; ask them if they would like to reschedule for a better time.
- Resolve: Ask them to brainstorm with you ways they can adopt the desired behavior and ways you can help.
- Review: Agree to a follow-up time where you will review progress and offer further coaching and encouragement.
That’s it. With a bit of practice, we can usually deliver this sort of feedback in under 5 minutes. (It will take longer as we learn to do this well and if there is built-up emotion due, normally, to poor prior communication and feedback.) Of course, planning those “one, compact” sentences will take a bit more planning before you meet. The compact sentences and planning are important. Winging it or using too many words prolongs their discomfort before you get to the Resolve stage.
In your corner,