Can you count the number of times that someone gave you feedback that was not helpful? I know, you can’t count that high.
Guess what, maybe people you have managed feel the same way.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review* provides us with some interesting perspectives on providing feedback:
Understanding Excellence. The authors suggest that many of us make the mistake of thinking that we ‘know” what every person should do to achieve excellence. While some factual knowledge can be very helpful – such as a checklist for pilots in an airplane cockpit – people often use different behaviors to produce excellence. They use examples including how various comedians use different styles to get laughs or the varied techniques that basketball players use to shoot.
Focus on Outcomes. First, we need to clearly define outcomes for others and then support them as they find their own way to the outcome. We will be more successful if we do this rather than trying to have everyone following a defined playbook of how to produce the outcome.
Specifically acknowledge outcomes of excellence. Once everyone knows what the outcomes are, they can use their natural talents to create ways to produce that result. When they do produce the outcome, managers should give specific feedback by highlighting what the employees has done. Call a little timeout, highlight what they did, and let them reflect on it. This helps people learn and re-create excellence.
Tell people instinctively what you think and how you feel. Describe what you felt when their moment of excellence caught your attention. This helps highlight the moment and encourages them to do it again.
Here are some more specific examples of providing feedback in this different way:
Instead of “Good job,” . . . . . say “Here is what really worked for me and how I felt about it.”
Instead of telling someone “You need to need to improve your communication skills” . . . . . tell them “Here’s exactly where you started to lose me.”
Instead of “Here’s where you need to improve” . . . . . say “Here’s what worked best for me and why.”
The bottom line from the authors is:
“We humans do not do well when someone whose intentions are unclear tells us where we stand, how good we “really” are, and what we must do to fix ourselves. We excel only when people who know us and care about us tell us what they experience and what they feel, and in particular when they see something within us that really works.” (p.101)*
Giving and receiving feedback can be tough, but these new methods can help us be more effective and allow others to grow even more successfully.
*Buckingham, M. & Goodall, A. “The Feedback Fallacy,” Harvard Business Review, March – April 2019, pp. 92 – 101.