Giving Feedback–Secret Formula

October 21, 2023

Traditionally, the feedback loop has revolved around the giver – a leader, manager, or supervisor. Many leaders champion this belief. Surprise! They’ve got it backward!

While organizations invest heavily in training leaders on feedback delivery, the real magic lies in empowering the receiver. However, the spotlight should be on the giver, ensuring feedback is constructive, actionable, and delivered with empathy.

Consider this analogy: Asking a question to someone you distrust is fruitless. Whatever they share will likely fall on deaf ears. Similarly, the exercise becomes moot if someone isn’t receptive to feedback.

The Misunderstandings Surrounding Feedback Misinterpretations of feedback often stem from deep-rooted defense mechanisms. While we are naturally inclined to learn and evolve, we’re also wired to protect our ego—individuals who view feedback as a growth opportunity radiate positivity and are assets to any team.

However, there’s always that one employee who resists feedback, making collaboration a challenge. Conversely, colleagues who embrace feedback contribute to a harmonious work environment. It’s vital to reflect, understand which category you fall into, and be open to the insights this guide offers.

Three Challenges to Effective Feedback Giving

  1. Ego Triggers: When you give feedback, recipients might feel threatened, even if your intentions are pure. These triggers can manifest physically, such as increased heart rate or restlessness. Recognizing these signs can aid in navigating the feedback conversation.
  2. Defensive Mechanisms: Feedback can sometimes unveil defensive reactions. Denial, projection, rationalization, and reaction formation are common defenses that hinder constructive feedback. It’s essential to be aware of these to foster open communication.
  3. Feedback Triggers: Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, authors of “Thank You For The Feedback,” highlight three primary feedback triggers: Truth (challenging the content), Relationship (challenging the source), and Identity (challenging self-perception).

Strategies for Giving Observations Effectively

  • Determine the Feedback Type: Whether it’s appreciation, coaching, or evaluation, clarity is key. As the giver, setting this context can pave the way for a fruitful discussion.
  • Empathetic Listening: Strive to understand before being understood. Feedback often comprises observational data and interpretations. Deliver observations without biases to make the session more meaningful.
  • Highlight Blind Spots: As executive coaches, it’s paramount to make leaders aware of their blind spots. Feedback can be an enlightening tool to highlight areas of improvement.

Navigating Triggers

  1. Relationship Triggers: The source of feedback plays a pivotal role in its reception. Feedback from a superior might be received differently than from a subordinate. Being aware of these dynamics can significantly influence feedback delivery.
  2. Identity Triggers: Feedback can sometimes clash with our need for security, approval, or control. Recognizing these triggers can help craft feedback that aligns with the recipient’s identity and values.

By understanding and navigating these triggers, giving feedback becomes a transformative tool. Let’s champion open communication and make feedback a cornerstone of growth.

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