After all of my years as an Executive Coach, I continue to be surprised that some leaders withhold the gift of feedback, or at least put it off until it’s too late. Feedback, in the form of one-on-one conversations, builds relationships and improves performance—and it is the key to Resonant Relationships. So why the resistance?
“Resonant relationships are vibrant and supportive relationships that foster respect, inclusion and open and honest dialogue,” writes Annie McKee in (McKee, Management: A Focus on Leaders, 2010)
What holds us back from giving sincere feedback? Common excuses that I hear are “I don’t have time to give feedback,” “I’m not sure how to give feedback,” “I’m afraid of how the person will react to the feedback.”
To reduce your potential pool of excuses, I present some “tried and true” tips for giving timely and helpful feedback:
- Offer feedback (positive and constructive) as soon as possible to allow the individual to learn and grow from the conversation. Waiting too long or until you have several items to talk about will be overwhelming for the person. A person can only accept couple points of feedback at a time. This means that you must have frequent conversations, with clarity around your intention and what you most want the other person to take from the conversation.
- Be honest and sincere in giving the feedback. Be clear of your positive intent to improve performance—remember, chances are, the person to whom you will be speaking is doing their absolute best to meet or exceed your expectations. No one likes to disappoint.
- Be open to questions. The feedback loop is a process of sharing information back and forth between sender and receiver—have examples available to point to from recent history that clearly illustrate the behaviors or attitudes you want the receiver to take a look at and work on changing.
- Provide support. This can take many forms, including follow-up conversations, articles or books you can point this person to for additional information and insights into the issues you’ve raised, or simply a reminder that it helps to talk these things through with people outside or work for additional insight or simply to connect with loved during times of change.
- Model how it looks for you, as a leader, to be open to your own development and feedback from others.
Finally, for you: Please know that the time spent in feedback conversations is certainly time well spent.
If you are on the receiving end of the feedback, remember to graciously receive the feedback. With any luck, you will receive the gift of more and more feedback, positioning you to reach your full potential and model for peers and direct reports what it means to truly bring alive the concepts of “continuous improvement” and “lifelong learning.”