In the workplace – another round of feedback on how to give effective feedback to your colleagues

Over the past week I’ve received a lot of feedback on how to give effective feedback.

Last Tuesday in particular, after leading a workshop where I deepened the tips I gave you in this column last week, the discussion became lively. It seemed to me that each of the sixty or so participants seated in the conference room at Prague’s exquisite Andaz Hotel was bursting at the seams with a final question or comment.

I believe this is because when one strives to create a trusting, encouraging work culture like it, it can be challenging to receive feedback that builds or corrects while enriching the relationship between leader and feedback recipient my participants have clearly done.

So I think it’s worth spending more time today analyzing the subject of feedback. I will present the issues raised during our discussion in the form of questions and answers.

Q. What do you do when a manager comes to you and says they want to give you feedback but you’re not ready to receive it?

A. I wrote last week that it is preferable to provide feedback in close proximity to the event in question as the memories of what happened are fresher for both you as the manager and the employee. However, apply some emotional intelligence before making a move.

If your collaborator has forgotten half of the planned content they were supposed to deliver in their presentation, it probably isn’t a good idea to remind them to spend more time practicing immediately after the presentation is over. They know they bombed. I would suggest that you show compassion before opening up.

If you are that employee and see the boss coming your way and immediately feel your pulse racing at the thought of him giving feedback you just can’t digest, I ask that you be honest and polite for some time to ask to collect themselves.

The recipient must have the right headspace to receive the best feedback and successfully commit to making the necessary adjustments.

Q. How do you deal with emotional triggers that can be triggered when you tell an employee that you want to schedule a “feedback session”?

A. Scheduling a generic “feedback session” will set off alarm bells for everyone. I encourage you to be as specific as possible in describing the issue in the subject line of your scheduling to narrow focus and hopefully reduce anxiety so your employee can prepare substantively and emotionally.

Q. What if I’m in a hurry and just want to give my advice or guidance and don’t want to waste time asking lots of open-ended discovery questions designed to instill confidence and solution-finding in the employee I’m managing?

A. If you’re busy handing out quick responses and advice, you run the risk of creating an overly dependent and less autonomous workforce. By taking the time to prepare, you invest in your team’s self-development and help them become less dependent on you.

Q. What if I observe a situation between two team members that I believe deserves feedback, but I think it might be better if they discussed and resolved the issue among themselves?

A. As a manager, if you see an interaction between two employees that deserves feedback, don’t let it go. You don’t have to stage an intervention, but call them in one by one to see what, if anything, was resolved between them. Depending on what you learn, you may need to bring the two together to further discuss and explore the interaction.

Q. Is it ever helpful to give direct, blunt feedback?

A. Yes, under certain circumstances this may be the case. Sometimes immediate action is required – especially when the fix involves an oversight that requires immediate attention. Being short and sweet can also be effective for course correction when the breach is very minor and easy to fix. But I would almost always hesitate to be “blunt”. This word implies the harsh tone of a reprimand, which does not equate to constructive feedback. Even when mistakes have been made, the tone in which a leader speaks should still be filled with compassion.

Q. How do I get the best action feedback?

A. Managers and employees should agree on concrete next steps. “I’ll do better next time” isn’t specific enough. It’s too vague and difficult to measure. Define one or two small but concrete and understandable steps that can be taken.

Of course it would be great if there were fixed feedback rules that worked smoothly for every occasion. That would make leading a team so much easier, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, workplace situations and employees are as complex as the companies and people that make them up.

The best approach I can offer is to understand as broad a range of tools as possible to help you prepare, rehearse, and accelerate your real-time decision making over the course of each unique feedback experience.

And finally, since I was in Prague, to conclude today’s column, dear readers, allow me to leave you with the paraphrased words of the former President of the Czech Republic, the poet Vaclav Havel: “Follow him who tells the truth seeks . Run away from whoever claims to have found it.”

I only profess myself to be a dedicated seeker. I hope that the more we explore and apply positive role model leadership techniques aimed at better communicating and connecting, the closer we can come to discovering the truth. Together.

Write to Gina in care of With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a leading expert in communications strategy, structure and execution. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor.
@TheGinaLondon In the workplace – another round of feedback on how to give effective feedback to your colleagues

Fry Electronics Team

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