By Jean Gamester, Toastmasters International
Feedback can be a fabulous thing; it can help us understand our strengths and learn how to build on our experience to do even better in the future.
Feedback’s got a bad rap though. Often when someone says “I have feedback for you” our heart sinks and we brace ourselves for criticism delivered by someone more focussed on their own interests rather than on helping us to succeed.
I believe that in order to create a culture where constructive feedback is at its heart, we need three things: an objective focus on the person receiving the feedback; better feedback delivery skills; and environments where it is safe to give and receive feedback.
Here is my advice for giving fabulous feedback and creating a culture that creates great leaders:
1) It’s all about them…
Feedback is not about us or what we want. It’s about supporting someone to be better – even if their style isn’t our style. We need to put our interests aside and recognise the differences in our styles style and focus on what will help them.
2) It’s got to be constructive…
Start by being specific, highlighting examples of things that have gone well, things that could have gone better, as well as providing tips on how to be even more successful in the future.
Of course, we need to be observant to make this happen – we need to be as attentive to what they do well as we are to the things they could do better, if not more so. We need to go beyond the weakness we see to share how they could do better in future.
The transition from the positive points to the areas for improvement needs to be made with care. The killer word here is “but” – use “and” instead.
Also, be aware of your body language and tone of voice – these make all the difference in ensuring that how we appear to be matches the constructive words we are using.
3) Making it safe…
If we want a culture of constructive feedback, then it needs to be a normal part of “what we do around here”. It isn’t enough to have the ability to deliver constructive feedback, it needs to be an expected part of life, whether that is achieved through mentoring or buddying partnerships or it is done in teams.
I believe that permission is a key part of creating a constructive feedback culture. People are most likely to want our help, to allow us in, if we have shown that we can be trusted with the privilege.
4) Making it work…
If the things we feed back to someone do not resonate with what we have been heard to say about them, then we will not be trusted. If we are constantly heard to be unconstructive when talking about others, then people will not believe it when we attempt to be constructive with them face to face. If we are struggling to find positive things, then spend more time noticing what they do well.
According to Jim Collins (Jim Collins (2001), Good to Great, Random House), the leaders of organisations that go from good to great are those who are not just driven to success, but have the humility to learn, to develop others and to see them succeed. Creating a fabulous culture where feedback is delivered safely, constructively and objectively just might be the thing that makes you, your team and your organisation go from good to great too.