Ken Blanchard calls feedback the breakfast of champions, and he is right. For any of us to be successful, we need feedback. For us to coach and develop our team members successfully, we must be able to give feedback to them.
I have spoken and trained on giving feedback for years. I’ve written here extensively on the topic, including articles on the four types of feedback, how we screw it up, and getting it clear (OK, this one is a video) among others.
In my writing, and in the writing of most everyone else, there is an important piece of the feedback puzzle missing. When was the last time you asked the question in the title of this article?
Why am I giving this feedback?
We can have all the data, have good delivery strategies, deliver the feedback at the right time and create a conversation about the feedback, and still not get great results.
Let’s talk about this question a bit more.
When I ask people why they are giving feedback, here are some of the answers I have heard, and surmised from leaders:
- It is part of my job.
- I’m doing performance reviews.
- I need documentation for their file.
- I am expected to give feedback.
This may be all be true, but can you see how if these are the reasons you are giving feedback, that there is a risk it won’t be all that successfully delivered or heard?
What if the reasons were:
- People need to know how they are doing.
- I want my team members to succeed.
- When people know where they stand, they know how to keep growing.
- People need (and deserve) feedback.
If these were the purposes of the giver, do you think their feedback (even if it is the same feedback as above) has a better chance of successful delivery?
If you agree, then this “Feedback” thing is about more than the message.
So what is the fundamental difference between the first list and the second list?
Your focus and intention.
– The first list is about ourselves, our job, our task, our responsibility, and what we have to do.
– The second list is about the other person, their success, their growth, our opportunity and what we have the chance to do.
Giving successful feedback doesn’t start with the right words, the right location, or the right timing, though all of those things are important.
Giving successful feedback starts with our focus and our intention. When we make the focus on the other person, we improve the likelihood that the feedback will be heard. When our intention is to help them improve, we improve the likelihood that the feedback will be accepted. And when feedback is heard and accepted, it is infinitely more likely to be applied.
If you think this is all about giving more positive feedback or sugar coating the message, you are missing the point. Clarifying/shifting the focus of and intention behind our feedback applies for both the glowing encouragement and the tough stuff to share and hear.
The next time you
have to have the chance to give someone feedback… Be clear about your purpose or reason for doing so. When you are clear that the reason you are giving the feedback is to help and support the other person, you are already on the path to greater success for you – and the other person.