Feedback That Lands Well And Creates Positive Change

Jun 10 / Jen Tyson
There is a bit of an art to giving and receiving feedback, this article is focusing on giving good feedback, that empowers, lands well, improves relationships, creates positive ripples and contributes to high trust two-way communication.

Great feedback lands well when the intentions are good and coming from a place of compassionate honesty, and that these things are communicated in language, consideration of timing, appropriate environment etc.

NOTE: Feedback is not the same as ‘constructive’ criticism, this is a contradiction in terms, criticising is not in any way constructive, ever.
I have found many leaders and managers give feedback in a default way, usually working from a default communication style under pressure, which is not always going to land well with the receiver, and can lead to conflict, offence, lack of trust and a feeling they are being micromanaged or treated like a child.

Others avoid giving feedback because they fear conflict, or it has not gone well in the past and they have not yet found the tools in their communication toolkit that help them become better at it, this can lead to things bottling up in an unhealthy way.

Resulting in explosions happening and usually at inappropriate times with definitely very little attention to all the other elements of communication, like tone, body language and mindset.
“It is not what has to be said it is how you say/deliver it.”
Jen Tyson
When I have asked leaders during training days, how they like to receive feedback, it is a good reflection point to start with. I have often been fascinated to find that, upon reflection, they realise that they have not always given feedback in a way they like to receive it.. interesting.

Below, is a preparation process for having these types of conversations well, with some good solid questions to ask of ourselves before we enter the actual conversation part.

You may want to get a bit of paper beside you when planning your next feedback session, with a colleague, employee, contractor, or client and work through some of these. Not all of them will be relevant to every situation, so pick and choose from the list below and decide which ones will be most important to look at for your scenario. 
  • What is the purpose for giving this feedback? What do I hope or need to achieve?
  • What are my intentions for giving this feedback? Check for your own hidden agendas, unconscious bias, emotional responses, or personal triggers
  • Is there anything I am assuming about this person, behavior, or situation?
  • Do I know the other person’s communication style and how they prefer to receive feedback? If not, how can I find out?
  • If I do – with that knowledge what will be the best way to land this feedback
  • What would like the outcome to be for myself and for the other person?
  • How do I want the other person to feel? What do I want them to know? What do I want them to do because of this feedback?
  • What channel will work best to deliver this?
  • When is the timing appropriate?
  • (usually the blanket answer here is as soon as possible, immediately if this can be done appropriately and not in front of a group of people)
  • What way should this feedback be delivered? 
  • (example - in person one on one, by phone, or virtually in person) 
    NOTE: I have not included email because feedback is rarely received well or in the way intended by email or instant messenger
  • Are there words that I could use to help this land well? Are there words I need to avoid using?
Preparation on all levels will avoid potential time sucks later cleaning up poorly communicate feedback.
Learn to ask GREAT questions to gain understanding of the person, situation, or behavior you are wanting to give feedback about.

The higher the stakes, or more important the relationship, the more preparation time is needed.

  • Frame up the way you start the feedback meeting request
  • Understand the power of the nonverbal communication elements, body language, facials, tone etc.
  • Consider your timing, if you are not sure if this is a good time ASK the person when the best time is.
  • Avoid ambushing someone in a meeting that was intended for another purpose

For fast feedback, that is needed quickly and timely, check your assumptions at the very least and never trust them to be true, start the conversation by asking a genuine question and be open to the answer that comes.
If the person demands to know what it is about at the stage of inviting a meeting, “Can you just tell me now? Can you just give it to me straight? Can you just give me an idea of what this is about?” you can reply with
“ I would prefer to chat to you in person, so if you can just let me know when you are free to do so then we can get together”

In closin
g, things don’t always turn out the way we would like, despite our best intentions. What I know is if you are working hard on improving your skills in this area, working hard on becoming more and more self-aware, you will have a higher level of success, less regrets, you will have better working relationships, create a far more trusting environment with those you work with, which then leads to better engagement and higher productivity.

You can only do what you can do, we cannot change other people, but we can get better at learning to positively influence relationships, culture and sometimes behavior when we work on our own skills.

Here is to improving our work lives by leveling up our own communication skills, one conversation at a time.

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Jen Tyson

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