If it is, you are not alone. I experienced that challenge during most of my 27 years in the corporate world and saw others around me struggle as well. I continue to see it in my interactions with leadership teams and executives through my consulting and coaching practices.
Here are ten tips for improving your feedback skills:
- Acknowledge the difficulty of giving and receiving feedback.
- Make a choice: Do you want to benefit from giving and receiving feedback? If so, read on. If not, the rest of this article is probably not for you at this time in your life.
- If possible, restrict the conversation to feedback. Detach it from other topics, such as performance reviews and compensation adjustments.
- Set ground rules, such as being 100 percent constructive, saying (and showing!) an intention to help the other person grow, asking questions only to clarify a point (vs. challenging a statement), and providing both positive and negative feedback.
- Volunteer to receive the feedback first. This will show humility and maturity and will make the other person more open to receiving your feedback.
- Pinpoint: Make your feedback as specific as possible. Provide examples, and stay away from generic statements, such as “try harder,” “be more assertive,” etc.
- Listen with your ears and your heart. Beyond the words being stated, watch for nonverbal signs, such as body language, sighs, and any other means used, consciously or subconsciously, by the other person. Likewise, be aware of your own communication signs and ensure they are consistent with the message you want to share.
- Practice, practice, practice. Start with a colleague with a high trust level. Go first, and stick to positive feedback if you want to initially play it safe. Make it a learning experience for both.
- Recognize that no two persons address and react to feedback the same way.
- Agree with the other person on the option to pause and assess the process midway, if needed. Be ready to call a time-out if the conversation is not flowing positively.
I hope these tips help you increase the quality and quantity of your feedback sessions, whether it is with colleagues, people within your team, your boss, or even your spouse.
Count on me if you want help in this process.
Percy M. Cannon