Over the years, hundreds of executive students believe that one skill essential leader should possess is the “ability to give tough feedback.”
But what exactly is tough feedback?
It is one when you have to tell your teammate that they have messed up with something important. Tough also is the way giving negative feedback: assertively, resolute and unyielding.
Many of us are uncomfortable receiving and giving negative feedback, and the challenge of doing so in a way that motivates change instead of making the other person feels defensive.
What are the ways of giving feedback?
To avoid arguments with seniors and managers, many try to sugarcoat negative feedback with positive feedback, like a bitter- tasking pill in a spoonful of honey. But again, this approach is misguided, because we don’t want our negative feedback to be unnoticed in the honey. Instead, it is very essential to create conditions in which the receiver can take in feedback, reflect on it and also learn from it in the best possible way.
How would you feel if your feedback goes unnoticed?
Many of the associates’ backout from giving feedback either because they are too afraid of their managers or the other reason could be their feedback could have gone unnoticed or unimplemented in the past. In such scenarios, feedback is not provided giving a major setback in the implementation and delay in the project productivity.
“Sir, I don’t think this initiative will work”. “If I would have been in your place, I would have implemented this differently.”
Will such blunt statements work out in favor of you?
A major tip of how we should NOT provide feedback is:
Never say – “If I would have been in your position…” This acts as a demeanor to the value a person is putting up to a superior position. It creates a very negative impression in front of our managers. It is very fine to feel such things, but not at all wise to present it in such statements.
Feedback should be in a way of presenting an intention to help the employee grow, rather than show him he was wrong. The feedback should increase the motivation and potential of an employee and resources but not drain him.
When preparing for a feedback conversation with a manager, reflect on what you hope to achieve and on what impact you would like to have on an employee, perhaps by doing a short meditation before the meeting.
How should we provide feedback to our boss?
1. What do the experts say?
Leadership is all about perception, if leaders do not know how they are perceived, their performance will suffer. However, we all know that it is quite tough to present honest feedback to someone sitting high up the ladder. It is rightly said that “Over-reliance on the chain of command prevents leaders from hearing the unvarnished truth”.
We must be extremely careful while providing feedback which can help someone make critical judgments and decisions for the firm.
2. The relationship comes first
Giving feedback depends on the relationship we share with our manager. If your manager is open-minded and if you have a good relationship with him, you owe him a straight talk. If you and boss share a rocky relationship and know that he will receive it negatively or is unreceptive to feedback, then it is better to not give any feedback.
As with any feedback, our intentions must be good and our desire to help him must supersede any issues between employee and manager.
3. Wait or ask for an invitation
Even if we have a great relationship with our boss, directly delving into unsolicited feedback is always unadvised. General advice on how to be a better supervisor is always a tough one unless we are asked for it.
Some managers are very open and expect genuine feedback. They tell the associates to always give incremental and honest feedback and invite suggestions on betterment. In such cases, it becomes safer to give feedback.
In cases when a boss doesn’t ask for feedback, you can request if he/she would like feedback. This is often easily achievable in the case of a new project/client. Statements like “Would it be helpful to you for me to give feedback on certain points in this project” or “I’m likely to have a unique perspective on what we are doing, would you mind if I share my views on it” are to be presented with best intentions while asking for an invite to provide feedback.
Whatever the case may be, always demonstrate the willingness to help for improvement.
4. Focus on perspective
As mentioned in the former part of the post, however tempting it may be, we must never say the things that we would do if we were in the manager’s position. Our feedback should always be on what we are seeing and hearing, not on what we would do as the boss.
The researchers recommend that we should always frame feedbacks in the form of our perceptions. By providing honest feedback, we can always help our manager to see how others see him.
Focusing on perspective also means that we must limit to a standpoint. We must know that we are only viewing a partial picture of a boss’s performance and may not have realized or appreciated the demands on him. We are supposed to provide feedback which is reflective without presumptions of what the manager is faced with.
Always open with affirmative feedback, by later providing constructive or incremental feedback consisting of alternative suggestions for improvement. It’s said by a great author Detert – “People react much, much better to specifics than to generalities.” So, we must always use details to back up our points.
5. When the manager becomes defensive
However thoughtfully we prepare and deliver feedback, our boss may become upset or defensive. In case we were asked for feedback, always hold on to the ground saying we were only doing what was asked for.
Sometimes, reframing the feedback may help. Always feedback should be framed in a way he/she might care about.
If the manager doesn’t want to hear feedback about something, instead of clamming up after a negative reaction, we must pick up the opportunity of checking with the person on want would be useful in the way of going forward.
Always provide feedback in a way you would like to receive without being or getting offensive about it.
Creating useful feedback requires more efficiency, care, and attention than is typically invested. Any and every skill – may it be learning mandarin, playing chess, guitar or golf – offering challenging strategic developmental feedback requires our attention. We must pay attention to details and do multiple things efficiently and simultaneously. Given the opportunity to help others develop and develop and become more effective, it’s worth the effect.
What are the points to be kept in mind while giving feedback?
Big-picture focused – The objective of giving feedback should be on focusing the organization’s objectives of the future though it may be less effective in the short run.
Organizationally aligned – Many times, the feedback given to managers is on personal beliefs and not without understanding the organizational values. Strategic developmental feedback is based on the organization’s leadership competency model, a shared understanding of what effective leadership looks like.
Behavioral and specific – Vague labels lack executive presence. Phrases like great, good work lack clarity. A leader needs to know what they are doing to create an impression.
Factual, not interpretive – Feedbacks are represented with adjectives that may not be accurate and just are a personal interpretation.
Positive and negative – A leader needs to know what they are doing well to repeat it and what they should improve on to make further adjustments. Negative feedback serves the most important fuel to make changes and is drivers of engagement, motivation, and innovation.
Focused on patterns – Many organizations take feedbacks at the end of sprints, quarters and yearly basis. When there are patterns of taking and giving feedback, efficiency improves.
Impactful – The feedback should be communicated with clarity, and not minced words to make an impact at the manager and the organization.
However, eminent feedback given by an associate shows how committed he/she is towards the organization and how well can they carve their thoughts in front of the higher management. Be wise and assertive to prove your worth.