Employing an Effective Feedback Process
For feedback to be useful and productive, coaching managers need to pay close attention to possible consequences that can occur once it has been provided. Constructive feedback tends to enhance employee relationships by generating higher levels of trust, honesty, and genuine concern for another person’s welfare, professional development and growth.
Feedback continually needs to be checked in order to determine its degree of agreement, which is referred to as “consensual validation.” This consensual validation is what tends to define feedback’s value to both the sender and receiver.
If the receiver of feedback is uncertain as to the giver’s motives or intent, the uncertainty itself constitutes feedback. This is why detailing the need for feedback should be revealed before multiple problems begin to occur. It is always important to check one’s feedback for message content, sequencing, structure, and factual data to ensure that clear communication is taking place. One way of doing this is to ask the receiver to rephrase the feedback. Remember, regardless of feedback intent, it still remains potentially threatening and is subject to a great deal of distortion or misinterpretation.
Predicting How the Feedback Receiver Will React Is Part of the Process
As a coaching manager it is important to be aware of various types of negative responses to feedback in order to react to them appropriately when they surface. Following specific guidelines for offering effective feedback can go a long way to limit many kinds of negative reactions to it, especially critical or necessary intervention types of criticism.
Managers as coaches can expect numerous employees (as well as themselves) to automatically react in a negative manner to what they feel is intimidating, hostile or threatening feedback. This reaction can take various forms, such as:
- Doubting the giver’s intentions or motives
- Selectively receiving or perceiving the feedback message in a biased manner according to how the person feels it is intended
- Rejecting or contradicting the facts or validity of the data that is applied or used within the feedback
- Reducing, lessening or diminishing the feedback’s impact
- Arguing, criticizing or verbally attacking the individual that is offering the feedback
Steps for Receiving Feedback in a Positive Manner
The first step to receiving usable, reliable feedback is to solicit it. As part of the process make certain to:
- Maintain your self-confidence and self-esteem when listening to feedback
- Maintain good rapport with the individual giving the feedback
- Apply active listening during the feedback discussion, such as paraphrasing and stating your understanding of what you are hearing
- Make sure to summarize the information and data
- Give a good example of how to effectively receive and accept feedback
Key Strategies to Help Give and Get Effective, Reliable Feedback
There are several key strategies that tend to enhance the productive feedback process:
Focus the discussion on the information needed. For example, when bringing a situation to the attention of an employee, begin the coaching process by saying something like: “Samantha, I’ve noticed in the past several weeks that you’ve fallen behind on keeping the project assignment schedule up-to-date. Let’s figure out what we both can do to get the scheduling process back on track.”
Always remember to apply open-ended questions as they work best to continually expand the discussion. Ask something like: “You have always done an exceptional job of maintaining the schedule correctly and up to the minute—until about two weeks ago. Why has there been such a change?”
Use closed-ended questions to prompt for specific responses, such as, “What other projects are you currently working on that are taking away valuable time from working on this project?” When taking this approach remember that closed-ended can end up disguised as open-ended inquiries, like: “Are you going to struggle or have a problem when it comes to the completion of this project?”
Promote ongoing dialogue through eye contact and positive facial expressions. The process involves nodding in agreement, raising the eyes, smiling, leaning forward more closely toward the other person, and making verbal statements in order to acknowledge that what is being said or stated, is heard.
State your understanding of what you are hearing by briefly paraphrasing what the other person is saying. After the key points have been summarized, try to get some agreement on the next steps. In addition, make certain to show appreciation for the effort made so far.
Best Practices for Offering Feedback
The following suggestions should be employed when offering feedback:
- Make it a point to reveal and describe your own reactions or feelings as the feedback process progresses
- Make certain to describe objective consequences that have or will occur
- Stay clear of accusations
- Focus on specific behavior the feedback is intended for, not the person
- Make certain to present data to support your input
- Be prepared to discuss additional alternatives
- Rephrase comments to sound less intense, critical or insensitive
- Take into account the needs of both the receiver and giver of feedback
- Make certain that feedback is directed toward a behavior or action that the receiver can do something about or has control over
Avoid These Feedback Pitfalls
When you find yourself receiving feedback, especially critical feedback, it is important to avoid the following pitfalls:
- Becoming defensive and closed-minded.
- Not checking for possible misunderstanding. Instead always use a paraphrasing technique that begins with something like, “Let me repeat what I am hearing you say…”
- Failing to gather information from other sources. It is far more advantageous to get as much input as possible from others to weigh and analyze the initial feedback received.
- Overreacting, since it closes down constructive discussion, and hinders trust building and fact verification.
- Not asking for feedback message clarification. It is essential to ask the person what the intent is behind the feedback in the first place, as well as making certain that there is total understanding on your part.
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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