Feedback is a peculiar animal. While many of us tell others we want it, we often abuse the messenger brave enough to give it. Or, if feedback is delivered by a “system”, we look for faults in the way the system was designed to deflect the message and save or rescue ourselves from embarrassment that usually comes with looking foolish.
As a result, we look for ways to provide feedback indirectly and hope the person on the receiving end can “read between the lines.” My experience however; is when I tried the indirect approach with what I thought might otherwise be taken as a personal criticism, the person reading between the lines usually read what he or she wanted to, which was seldom the message I really wanted to deliver.
If you want a family or an organization of champions, there are certain stages of development everyone goes through – some faster than others, but all go through them. Without feedback, many of your potential champions never get beyond the “great potential” stage. What a waste!
So what kind of feedback is most important and how is it best delivered? Good questions, and I’m sure almost everyone has an opinion based on his or her experiences. Here are a few suggestions that I have found work well.
Truth – When it doubt tell it:
Now, telling the truth doesn’t mean you get to be nasty or brutal. In fact, if you choose the “brutally honest” approach, you might get some feedback you can’t handle very well. If you can keep your comments and observations objective and non-judgmental, there is a much greater chance of your message get through to the receiver. Keep in mind, the meaning of your message is in the response you get.
Giving people feedback is lot like planting an oak tree – the best time is right in the moment. If you can’t quite bring yourself to give the feedback in an “online, real time” environment, at least do it quickly enough so that the feedback – positive or negative – still has impact.
To come across sincerely and not as a “toady”, follow a simple formula still taught in Dale Carnegie programs (it’s still taught because it still works and most people don’t know how to do it):
Use the person’s name;
Say what you liked;
Say why it’s important to you;
Say thank you.
To deliver negative feedback, follow this simple formula:
Ask permission to provide some feedback;
Avoid referring to a “failure” (there is no failure, only feedback);
Offer suggestions and options as to how others might have handled the circumstances or solved the problem or whatever (when providing negative feedback, people seldom care how you would have “done it”, all you do by offering unsolicited wisdom is irritate people);
Create a Dialogue:
Ask the person if he/she would/will do anything differently the next time a similar set of circumstances occurs. Why? Why not?
Treat people with dignity and respect.
Regardless of how it’s delivered, feedback can have a tremendous influence on how people develop; and, no matter what our age, most of us are still learning what it means to be human and to be a champion. Feedback, the essential vitamin in becoming an effective human being.
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