Giving feedback: three ways to get better at it.

Every leader wants to make a positive difference to those they lead. Then why is it that most of us are crying out for effective feedback?

We don’t regret the things we did, we regret the things we didn’t do

Many leaders I talk to wish they’d been better ‘better’ at feedback. When I quiz them on what ‘better’ means, the themes are consistent:

·        Addressing poor performance earlier

·        Initiating difficult conversations rather ignoring them

·        Giving feedback on demand rather than waiting for the right time

·        Providing empowering feedback rather than someone perceiving they’re not good enough

·        Proactively asking for feedback rather than waiting for it.

Do you wish you were better at giving and asking for feedback?

People want to know how they are performing. They want to know if they are valued and how they can improve. They want to know how they are perceived. Even if it hurts. They would rather know. Than not. – Sharon Pearson

People often shy away from constructive feedback because it’s underpinned by judgement, uncertainty, vulnerability, and fear. For example, fear about how the relationship might be impacted, uncertainty about how the feedback will be perceived, and fear about sharing real thoughts and feelings.

I remember years ago receiving harsh but accurate feedback from an MD I reported through to at ANZ on an incident that happened four months prior. Receiving the feedback earlier would have propelled me out of my comfort zone and improved my relationships across the business.

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve – Bill Gates

I see teams with an ongoing commitment to business improvement and growth, yet there is very little feedback happening to improve and grow people within the team. I’ve worked with leaders who – whether they acknowledge it or not – have written others off and don’t realise how much their biases are at play. When trust is absent, people will look after themselves first.

Leadership is not about being popular or being right. Leadership is about being effective.

How would you rate yourself as a leader on these feedback benchmarks?

1.Create feedback-based team culture

A feedback-based culture is a learning environment where feedback is an integral part of how the team works together to champion and lead each other.  Where feedback is given and received as a gift because everyone is open, transparent, and willing to learn. Where people can take risks and make mistakes because of the learning opportunity created.

2.Establish relationships based on trust

Trust creates a safe space for feedback. To give and receive truly candid feedback, people have to feel safe and know it’s okay to be themselves.  People want feedback from leaders who can relate to them with humility, where they feel validated and valued, even when the message is negative. Feedback is a way to strengthen relationships if the communication is clear and handled with care. Honest communication helps build trust.

 3.Truly believe in people and in their ability to succeed

People want leaders who believe in them. People don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be shown how to succeed.

Bringing it all together

The hardest and most important part of your job as a leader is to develop people into their potential. Building your feedback muscle takes courage, but it’s well worth the effort to truly make the difference to others you desire.

What feedback conversations are you going to initiate this week?

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