Feedback is a key concept discussed in academics and business because it is critical to the process of improvement. Just to clarify, feedback has two meanings in the world of organizational behavior. This article relates to the more commonly used meaning – feedback to explain how well an employee is meeting goals at work. However, feedback can also refer to the communication process that occurs when the receiver of a message is reiterating or summarizing what the sender said.
Giving feedback about the performance of others is fraught with challenges. Sadly, it can take decades to become skilled at giving feedback in a manner that is helpful to both the individual and the organization. Here are some quick tips to help speed up the learning curve.
How, What, When, Where, and Who Matters
- Remember that receiving feedback can be very stressful. Issues such as timing, duration, physical location, and proximity can increase or decrease the stressfulness of the feedback encounter.
- Develop trusting relationships. Trust is the foundation for open communication channels. Promoting an atmosphere of trust increases the likelihood that feedback can be used productively.
Overcome Communication Barriers
Even if your feedback delivery is flawless, communication barriers may prevent the receiver from understanding the message. Industrial psychologist Andrew DuBrin offers these tips for overcoming the communication barriers that can occur when giving feedback.
- Clarify the message. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the issue and create a plan for what you want to say.
- Motivate the receiver. How can you appeal to the receiver? Is the information related to productivity, future promotions, or earning power? Igniting the receiver’s motivation at the beginning of the conversation will allow him to be receptive to the full message.
- Communicate the feelings behind the facts. If you were disappointed, confused, or angered by an issue, it is important to acknowledge these emotions in an unemotional manner. For example, if you were disappointed by the the individual’s effort to follow-up with a customer, you might say, “I’m disappointed that you did not follow-up in a timely manner with that customer since 90% of our business is generated from past customers.” Being honest will help to build trust.
Giving timely and thoughtfully crafted feedback is the sign of a mature leader. But remember that becoming skilled at giving feedback is more art than science. Consider the tips above before your next feedback encounter. I hope it’s a masterpiece.