Receiving feedback doesn’t come naturally for most people.
Our default reaction is to block, get defensive and deny we could be wrong, flawed, or must improve!
Instead of staying in control, listening openly without becoming defensive, we move into flight/flight and allow our emotions to run the ship.
At those times feedback leaves us enraged, agitated, or demotivated. This type of feedback gets us on our feet, hearts racing, fists clenched – even tears welling up in our eyes.
So, what can we do?
As a leader, it’s challenging enough to give feedback. While some feedback can be rewarding – like praise – often feedback leaves people feeling offended and exposed.
In those cases, the feedback does more harm than good.
I often coach my clients on appropriate types of feedback and how to deliver it effectively. Here are 3 types of feedback and what to do to reduce the risk of a backfire.
The most difficult feedback to deliver involves the person’s identity. Yes, there’s truth to the saying we’re all built differently – not everyone is wired the same. But, most people don’t want to hear they are “different.”
Instead, you should always do your homework and turn an identity issue into a behaviour issue.
They don’t respect deadlines? Talk about the most recent missed deadline.
They appear negative in meetings? Express your curiosity about what they think.
Telling someone they are wrong is a guaranteed direct line to resistant. The truth isn’t always easy to swallow, especially if it’s based on someone else’s observation.
It doesn’t matter how true your statement about the other person is, if they feel it’s utterly false and off-base, there’s no way you will convince them otherwise.
They will feel offended and unwilling to accept any of your following statements.
The solution is to describe a recent behaviour and then ask a question.
They claimed they followed up with a client but actually didn’t? Tell them what you know about the truth and then ask if they are mistaken.
They missed a project milestone? Describe what you know to be true and then ask them what happened.
Your objective should be to find a solution, not to make them wrong.
Of all the triggers, this is perhaps the trickiest. Feedback about your relationship is typically blocked not because of its validity or the person receiving it lacks the mental strength to accept it, but because the relationship between the person giving the feedback and the recipient is tainted.
If you are the last person this individual wants to be hearing feedback from, then they will ignore you and detach themselves from the session. Maybe you’ve not earned their respect, or you’ve had an altercation with them in the past, causing them to judge your authority.
Whatever the situation, feedback dished out by someone they don’t trust or disrespect will likely be snubbed.
The solution is to (again) describe something you observed that they can agree with and then ask about the relationship. When you start with a mutually agreed truth, you are starting the conversation with an agreement.
Fortunately, there are ways around these triggers. And if a triggered reaction has already caused feedback to be blocked, there’s still a chance to rectify the situation by scheduling a second feedback session. And this time, you will approach it prepared.
If you feel that you need more guidance on how to avoid the discussed types of feedback triggers, I believe I can help you build on your leadership strengths. If you’d like to learn more about how I have helped people transform their leadership skills through coaching techniques and highly-personalized programs, connect with me.
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