Giving positive feedback is a breeze, if not an outright pleasure, but most people find giving constructive criticism more of a struggle. Advice aimed at feedbackers usually focuses on setting the scene, getting the timing right, and delivering the feedback. Coaching geared to the receiver of the feedback – the feedbackee, if you will – says grateful acceptance of the feedback is the only way to go. Any appearance of being defensive, which includes asking questions or putting forward your own perspective is a huge no-no.
The trouble is it’s like feedback hit and run. There are too many scenarios where this dynamic causes problems…
- The feedbackee already knows how they did, and it’s knocked their confidence. They presented to the leadership team and blew it – they were ill-prepared and it showed. After your feedback they feel worse.
- The feedbackee doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. They don’t recognize what you’re describing – they feel like they can’t ask questions – that would be pushing back. So they thank you and leave the conversation confused and unlikely to change their behavior.
- There’s context you’re in the dark about, e.g. they recently received devastating personal news, or there’s a complicating team dynamic. You miss an opportunity to have a different, more supportive conversation.
- They don’t share the same goals/expectations as you. They were aiming for quantity, you’re focused on quality. You’re focused on speed, they’re focusing on preparedness. Your feedback won’t make much sense to them since according to their goals they did great!
- Perhaps they’re overcompensating after previous feedback you’re unaware of, they were told to collaborate more – now they won’t move forward with anything until they’ve run it past 5 people. Your contradictory message leaves them caught in the middle and unsure how to go forward.
In all these cases a small tweak will get you right to the heart of the matter, resulting in better conversations and outcomes. Set the scene, get the timing right, but then ask the feedbackee how they think the meeting/presentation/last iteration went. Take the conversation from there and decide which mode you need to be in: coaching, expectation realigning, supporting, problem-solving, or strategizing. You can adapt what you were going to say once you’ve learned what you’re dealing with.
Feedback is essential for growth, but hit and run feedback hinders understanding, a key component in the coach – coachee relationship. Adding “How do you think it went?” morphs the whole thing from a stilted transaction to a constructive conversation, one where you can get to the heart of an issue and address it accordingly.