In over 21 years of working with both private and public sector clients as a leadership development strategist, the single most common lament I hear from HR professionals and executives is – they just can’t seem to get their managers and supervisors to have the difficult conversation with their people.
The ability to give and receive re-directive feedback are a vital competency for people at all levels of the organization. At the very heart of effective leadership is the ability to grow, develop and bring the best out of people, thus it follows that the ability to provide feedback is a leadership fundamental core competency.
Further, world class organizations have already employed a “multiple source feedback” (MSF) systems (sometimes called 360 degree feedback) for performance appraisals. In our increasingly interdependent, team-based workplace this trend towards MSF is certain to continue. So if have not experienced an MSF exercise yet in your career, get ready because it is the future.
Before proceeding with our inquiry into re-directive feedback, let me emphasize that I believe strongly that the most common feedback a leader should deliver is positive “reinforcing feedback” or praise whenever possible. The idea being that praise productive behaviours will ideally crowd out unproductive or undesired behaviours. However, we all have weaknesses and blind spots which mean that inevitably we all can benefit form re-directive feedback.
Research suggests there are a number of reasons why most managers fail to deliver corrective feedback in a timely manner. Fear of conflict and offending people top the list, followed closely by the fact that many managers simply do not know how to deliver re-directive feedback effectively? So allow me to share some insights on how to effectively facilitate these challenging conversations.
Soon we will look at the four step re-directive feedback process, and I would like to you consider some general guidelines to follow when delivering re-directive feedback …
First and foremost, it is essential that your intent is perceived to be supportive or helpful and not critical. The tone of the conversation must be inquisitive and not condemnatory. Thus, the key is to start with clarity of purpose, keeping top-of-mind that fundamental purpose of providing feedback is to encourage effective future behavior and performance.
Effective re-directive feedback is always performance related with a clear future solution focus. Be concise in your delivery. Level one feedback can be delivered successfully in less than 60 seconds.
Remember, the more challenging the conversation the more strategic one must be! To effectively plan for delivering feedback, I recommend asking yourself a series of question …
- Can you live with the behavior in question? Do the benefits of giving person feedback and achieving desired behavior change outweigh the risks of delivering the feedback?
- Are you angry with the individual?
- Is this person open to feedback? How mature (Emotionally Intelligent) is the individual?
- Have you developed credibility and influence with this person?
- Does the person clearly understand the performance and / or behavior expectations?
- Can you clearly describe the specific performance or behaviors that need to be re-directed and the negative consequences of the problem behaviour?
- If you have been putting delivering the feedback off for some time … Can you explain why?
- What the best time and place to have the conversation?
Allow me to create context for the four step process feedback process by explaining that there are four levels of feedback. Each level of feedback process is to be facilitated with greater specificity and rigour.
Level ONE feedback involves steps 1 – 3. Giving the person credit for being able to identify their own solution. If level one feedback fails to achieve the desired behaviour change / performance improvements, then we move to level 2 feedback.
Level TWO feedback involves the addition of step to the process. Again, if level 2 feedback fails to achieve the desired behaviour / performance improvements, then we move to level 3 feedback.
Level THREE feedback involves steps 1 – 4, plus firm and measurable commitment to change.
Level FOUR feedback is the game changer, as now the feedback is about integrity and broken level 3 commitments.
The Four Step Re-Directive Feedback Process …
STEP 1 – Request Permission to Give Feedback
- I’ve been noticing something lately, is it OK if I give you my perspective? Can I share an observation with you? Would you like some helpful feedback?
- If you encounter defensiveness, then stop and explicitly clarify your intentions / purpose … “Here is what I am trying to do and what I’m not trying to do …”
STEP 2 – Describe Specific Behaviour
- The key to this step s to be very specific, to avoid resistance and arguments.
- Use action verbs … “When you rolled your eyes” or “When you said …”
- Ask person if your perception or information is valid.
STEP 3 – Describe IMPACT or Consequences Resulting from Behaviour
- Step 3 the key to gaining leverage and reducing defensiveness, because the more the negative impact of the behaviour are made real and tangible, the more evident your real motive becomes for providing the feedback.
- If possible, give the person the benefit of doubt and assume the negative consequences were un-intended.
- Describe how behaviour negatively impacts as many stakeholders as possible … Consider the impact on Customers, the organization, team or department, other teams or departments, individual team members, yourself and most importantly, themselves.
STEP 4 – Request / Suggest Behaviour Change????
- Step 4 is not always required and can be counter productive if used when not needed
- Suggest solutions only when absolutely necessary, much preferred to have person solve problem
Highly effective leaders have not only mastered the art of providing feedback, they also invite and welcome feedback whenever posible. Here are some suggestions on how to proceess feedback you receive to obtain the greatest learning value form the feedback.
Request performance feedback from trusted and respected sources. Discount feedback given in anger or vindictiveness
Listen, don’t overreact or interrupt.
Assess validity of feedback by asking self …
- What is the person’s motive for providing the feedback?
- What is persons’ degree of competency?
- How accurate is their perception or information?
- Ask for details and specifics.
- Paraphrase, to prove that you understand the spirit and the specifics of the feedback.
- If feedback is valid and source is respected then request suggested solutions.
- Thank person for taking time to provide feedback.
I truly believe that feedback is indeed the breakfast of champions and effective leaders. So I strongly encourage you to go to work on the development of these crucial competencies of giving and receiving feedback. My challenge to you is to request and provide feedback at least in the next week. No doubt, there are risks involved when requesting and giving feedback, however, I suggest there a much greater risks of failing to do so.
Greg Campeau – August 2012
Campeau Learning & Development