Rewind some years… I’m in my annual review and my line manager tells me I won’t be considered for promotion this review period because #reasons. I’m scratching my head because this is the first time anyone’s mentioned any of those things. In other words, I’ve been doing things wrong for a whole six months and only just been told… so they’re important enough to block a promotion, but not important enough to bother bringing up. Sound familiar?
I’d been missing some valuable and much-needed feedback, so I left that review shocked and hugely disheartened, with a healthy dose of paranoia. Did everyone know I was doing something wrong? Were they talking about it behind my back? Why had nobody said anything? Joe in my team was doing the same thing as me… did he know we’re not supposed to be doing it that way? On and on my mind went, bullying and beating itself up, convincing me that I was stupid and should somehow have known.
I, like many others, am not psychic! Nor do I know what I don’t know. Two good reasons I need feedback, which needs to be both regular and timely. Six months after an event is far too late by anyone’s standards. I need to know what I’m doing wrong asap, so I can alter my approach. And I need to know what I’m doing well, so I can repeat it in the interests of the company (not to mention my own promotion chances).
Needy much? Well, actually, yes! Yes I am – and you should be too.
Feedback is immensely powerful but, in my opinion, it won’t deliver all that it should without two things:
- A speaker who can give feedback well
- A listener who can receive feedback well.
Let’s tackle the former – giving feedback
Feedback can be hard to give. People have feelings and often we over-analyse the feedback we give because we feel we might be seen as patronising (“Good job!”) or we don’t want to hurt the recipient’s feelings. My issue with this attitude is that we’re thinking about ourselves more than the recipient – without each piece of feedback, they’re lacking a vital piece of knowledge that could really help them move forward.
Feedback should incorporate all SORTS:
- Specific – give enough detail to show the listener where they went wrong or did something right, and allow them to take action. When did they do what?
- Objective – focus on facts, not personalities, feelings or opinions. What did they do, say, etc.?
- Regular – feeding back regularly builds trust, and if the recipient becomes accustomed to receiving feedback, they are more likely to action it.
- Timely – for feedback to have the most impact, the recipient must be able to recall what they said or did (and how and why), so they know what to do differently, or do more of.
- Supportive – the feedback should be helpful to the recipient.
One tool I’ve been introduced to is the E2C2 model. This incorporates all SORTS and can help a manager think about how to present feedback (though it may not be right for you if you prefer a collaborative approach). I’ve found it useful in non-management situations too.
e.g. Yesterday you arrived ten minutes late for our team meeting. As a result, we did not have time to visit all the agenda items. I need you to make sure that you are on time for team meetings moving forward so we can cover all the areas we need to as a team.
Your presentation yesterday received an average engagement mark of 9 out of 10 from attendees. The CEO has specifically requested that you stay on the account for the next series of presentations. You’ve improved 2 points in only one quarter – well done and keep it up.
Whether you want someone to keep at it or do something differently, this tool may help you format the feedback you’ve been putting off giving.
Piece of cake? Listen to feedback. Smile and nod. Thank the giver of the feedback for their time. Feedback accepted… Isn’t that it?
I’ve often heard people complain that they don’t receive enough feedback but when I dig beneath the surface it turns out they don’t actually do anything with the feedback. They let the other person say their piece, they thank them for their time, and they dump the comments somewhere in the back of their head…
Think about the last time you were given feedback. What questions did you ask to make sure you understood the feedback? What actions did you take following the feedback? How did you update the person who gave the feedback?
To really receive feedback, you need to explore the giver’s point of view. Ask questions and make sure you’re really clear on the point(s) they’re making. This is not an attempt to trip them up and undermine what they’re saying – this is for your own clarity:
- “So when I’m presenting, I do this (gestures) with my hands? Oh! I didn’t know I did that…”
- “When you say I stumble over my words… can you give me an example of that, so I can really get to grips with it?”
So now you’ve understood the feedback, what next? Plan your next steps together… while you’re with the person who gave you the feedback, explore with them how you can put it to work in future. “So if I put my hands here when I present, that would be less distracting? I’ll try that next time I’m presenting – could we catch up after my next presentation to see if I managed it?”
To summarise, feedback is vital for everyone, at every level. Without it, it’s hard or impossible to progress anywhere near as much.
If we’re talking about my work… Even if all you’re doing is telling me I did a good job, I still need to hear this and know what made it a good job, so I don’t ditch any good habits. And when I’m not doing something as well as I could, then treat me like an adult, trust that I won’t have a meltdown, and give me some facts.
If we’re talking about your work… I need to know that my feedback is useful to you and that you’ll do something with it other than paying lip service. So explore it with me. Make sure you understand my point, and let’s agree on an example that proves this. And finally, let me into the secret – what are you going to do now I’ve given you this valuable information?