How, and how not to give effective feedback in professional settings
The author, Robert Ossenblok, is a leadership trainer for a Fortune 500 company.
You’re a boss, you work with people, and people work for you. Some days everything goes great. Your business functions like a well-oiled machine. Some days are different. Your business stares into the abyss.
The known secret to keeping your team trending upwards, is good communication. At the heart of good communication lies feedback. Attached to feedback sits coaching. And coaching is holding the key to delegation. But what does good feedback and coaching look like?
There are loads of models that explain how to give good feedback. They have great acronyms like AID, COIN, or SBI. In the end, they all focus on the same elements.
Setting the stage
Start with describing the situation. The context. The setting. That is step one, make it very clear what scenario you are talking about and what was going on there. Step two; explain to your colleague what it was that they did. Be objective and non-judgmental. Stick to the facts. Don’t assume intentions or reasons, simply share what you observed. Step three; share the impact the other person had with their actions. Was a deadline missed? Was a meeting delayed? Did it make you feel as if they didn’t care? Or, did it have a great and positive effect? Be precise in what the impact was.
Lastly, and only when required, share what you would like to see differently in the future. What is the change that is needed? What is it that they need to keep doing, or stop doing?
Forget about the feedback sandwich or burger. Forget about having to combine every ‘negative’ feedback with ‘positive’ feedback. Just be clear, be objective and be transparent. Give feedback that people can actually work with. You are not giving feedback to unleash your own anger. You are not worried about feelings, because you keep it objective and professional. This allows you to focus on the future. To focus on growth. Because that’s the place where you want to be.
And that brings us to coaching. Coaching is a vague term, but it is closely connected to feedback. There are two forms of coaching; the first is operational coaching. This is the kind of feedback that we saw above. You coach someone on how to do a good job, by giving them transparent feedback. The second form is motivational coaching. This is the cheerleader role where you push people to their limits. You inspire them by sharing your vision. You are their emotional support. Their rock. Their shoulder to cry on.
Strong operational coaching opens up new possibilities. As your team grows in their abilities – remember, stagnation means liquidation! – you are able to push more tasks onto them. You have unlocked a new skill: Delegation. As you delegate new tasks you continue to provide relentless operational coaching, allowing employees to continue in their growth. It builds a flywheel. More operational coaching means more delegation. More delegation means you have time for more operational coaching, which means more delegation.
Think of it as a metaphorical garden. Giving bad feedback is as if you are trying to trim the hedges using a flamethrower. You do damage instead of adding value. Not giving feedback comes down to allowing your garden to turn into a wilderness where anything goes. Giving feedback hidden in happy sandwiches just leads to a blind gardener that hacks away at random, not sure what changes to make. It ruins the garden.
Great feedback trims the hedges where they grow in the wrong direction. You water the flowers. You remove the weeds. You protect the sapling as it grows into a strong and powerful tree. And in the end, this tree will bear you fruits. You can sit back as your garden produces beautiful, juicy, apples. Your garden still requires work to stay in shape and function properly, but it is more robust and produces you with great benefits.