How To Give Feedback With Confidence

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There was a time in my corporate career when I felt uncomfortable about giving “negative” feedback. I had believed that for feedback to be effective, it had to be uplifting and encouraging. I had assumed that no one would like to be given feedback that would make them feel less of themselves and be demotivated. It was my mentor in INSEAD who made me realize that what we call negative feedback is actually a teachable moment. It’s all in how these areas of opportunity are delivered that makes a big difference. His advice was to be “hard on issues, soft on people.” This concept was a game changer for me for it made me realize that you can - and should - treat areas for improvement as opportunities for growth.

What stops us from giving feedback?

A survey published in The Harvard Business Review found that 1 out of 2 managers hate giving feedback:

  • 44% believed that giving developmental feedback was stressful or difficult.

  • 21% admitted that they avoid giving developmental feedback.

  • 37% conceded in self-assessment tests that they don’t give positive reinforcement.

Anna Carrol, author of How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, says: “Feedback has always been fraught with emotions such as fear, avoidance, and fight-or-flight stress. In addition, personality tendencies such as the need to be liked or reluctance to trigger others’ emotional responses play a role.”

Millennial managers who have been promoted quickly also face the unique situation of having to supervise people who are older than them or used to be their peers. “In their case, they struggle not just with feedback, but redefining the boundaries of their relationship and clarifying expectations,” says Carrol. Unfortunately, keeping silent hurts your credibility and effectiveness as a leader.

Excuses to Not Give Feedback Vs. Liberating Reality

If we can push past the fears associated with giving feedback, we generally find out that they’re unfounded – and giving feedback actually helps us achieve better results and relationships with our team.

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Feedback Improves Engagement (if you do it a certain way….)

Feedback doesn’t just improve productivity; it is also essential for employee satisfaction.  A Gallup report on The State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders found that employees who had regular meetings and feedback from their managers were 3 times more likely to feel engaged. “Great managers don't just tell employees what's expected of them and leave it at that; instead, they frequently talk with employees about their responsibilities and progress. They don't save those critical conversations for once-a-year performance reviews.”

The best scenario is when the feedback is made within a strengths-based culture. We don’t just speak to employees when there’s a problem, and then tell them what we like and what they need to change. We are constantly connecting to our team members, and use feedback to discover their strengths, sharpen their skills, and assign them roles or tasks where they can excel.

Does this mean we don’t give negative feedback? Of course not! However, correction is part of a bigger coaching process – and employees know that. Since we speak to them regularly, and are just as quick to give praise and motivation, the negative feedback is still seen in a positive way. “My leader, my company and my job are all helping me grow.”

We always give feedback, whether we like it or not

But giving feedback isn’t really a choice. Whether we like it or not, our words, tone of voice, body language and even the topics we choose to avoid all communicate what we feel or think about a person, says Bob Dignen, author of Communication for International Business: The Secrets of Excellent Interpersonal Skills.  

“We cannot not give feedback. If we think we’re not doing it, we’re a dangerous communicator because it means we are probably not managing our messages and relationships effectively,” Dignen warns.

The choice lies in whether we, as leaders, see that feedback as an important skill with a real business impact. We need to learn how to give it, and use platforms and processes that make it part of everyday work routines.

With Grow, you can improve your team’s feedback processes. It helps teams give and receive feedback through self-awareness activities and a space to collaborate. They can then work on feedback received by creating development plans, goal setting and monitoring. Grow uses a proven methodology developed by experts from INSEAD and is used by leading teams around the globe.

With Grow, you can treat feedback for what it truly is: a gift.

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Originally published on LinkedIn by Rudi Ramin

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Grow’s proven methodology has been used effectively by senior teams around the globe to achieve stronger team dynamics.  To find out more, contact us now.