Confrontation or Learning Experience? Delivering Feedback Effectively

18933836_sIn a previous Huffington Post article , I talked about why it isn’t good enough simply to say “good job” when you’re giving feedback. While it is important to acknowledge performance that is meeting or exceeding expectations, it is imperative to provide corrective feedback when things aren’t going as you’d like.

What happens when your team isn’t delivering as expected – when your expectations go unmet?

Can we just hope for it to change or go away? Not if we want to meet our business objectives without doing all the work ourselves.

Things don’t just change. If we aren’t telling people what they are specifically doing or not doing that is getting in the way of the results we want, nothing will change.

I know it can be uncomfortable. There are so many reasons why we don’t want to give people feedback- we don’t want to have conflict, we are worried what they will say or think, or we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

Yet if we don’t … our team members (or vendors) can’t stop the behavior that is unproductive (or driving us crazy) and everyone ends up frustrated.

A Framework to Deliver Effective Feedback

A simple yet effective model for delivering corrective or constructve feedback effectively is the SBI framework:

  1. Describe the situation where the behavior was observed.
  2. Describe the behavior– be sure to include observable actions or interactions that are specific and factual.
  3. Describe the impact – the effect the behavior had on others, the work activity or results.

Here’s an example showing the SBI model in action:

Situation: Our project deadline was October 1, and we’ve now exceeded that initial date by two weeks.

Behavior: You haven’t provided us with the regular project updates that we originally agreed upon.

Impact: Regular updates are essential to the long-term success of this project, and our team depends on them. The rest of our project team is frustrated by a lack of timely, consistent updates. This lack of communication has led to other delays and is not conducive to good teamwork.

Remember that every situation will be different, but the primary goal is to describe the situation and behavior clearly, staying focused on the facts. Follow up with the impact the behavior had, and close with a question or two that encourages the person to consider what they might do differently going forward.

Ask the Right Questions

As part of the feedback process, asking the right questions can have a significant impact on the outcome. Follow the guidelines below so you know what to include – and what to avoid.

  1. Plan first. Instead of brazenly jumping into the process without thought, take a step back and plan out what you want to say. As you do this, you’ll be able to outline the questions you’ll ask as you deliver feedback.
  1. Make your questions open-ended. Questions that are open-ended often start with “who”, “what”, “how”, “where”, and “when”. Notice “why” was missing from that list…using “why” in an open-ended question as you’re delivering feedback can make the other person feel like they’re being judged.

For instance, instead of asking “Why did you do that?”, try “What was your objective behind doing that?” instead. This sounds less confrontational and accusatory.

  1. Stick to the facts. Avoid making personal judgments or criticisms. In other words, your goal should be focused on providing feedback about a behavior and the impact it had.

Don’t: “Why do you always rush through things? If you weren’t so hasty, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Do: I know you mentioned you have a lot on your plate right now. What would make it easier for you to focus more of your time on this task/activity?

  1. Change up the perspective. As you’re delivering feedback, use thought-provoking questions to guide the other party to see the situation from a fresh perspective.

For instance, if the other person blames the situation on a disagreement she had with a co-worker, direct your questions to help her consider a new perspective.

Instead of following along with the same line of thinking by saying something like, “I can’t believe she said that!”, try asking questions like “I understand where you’re     coming from. What do you think might have led her to say that?” or “What would need to happen for you and her to improve your relationship?”

  1. Involve the other person in the solution. The most effective feedback is a 2-way conversation. It is not your sole responsibility as the business leader to solve everything. Ask the person you are giving feedback to come up with a solution or alternative way of acting. Questions such as “how could you address this differently in the future?” or “what can you do to resolve this issue?” assist the other person in coming up with solutions that she or he can own and commit to.

Remember, knowing what questions to ask can significantly change the outcome of the feedback experience. Instead of the recipient seeing the feedback as a one-sided ambush, the process can actually represent a dynamic learning experience for both parties.

What tips do you have for delivering corrective feedback effectively?

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