As a manager, you should give your employees regular feedback. I will give you my most important tip, my No1 feedback rule on constructive feedback.
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My experience with feedback
As a CEO of my own company as well as a manager in an international group, I was able to gather some experience through feedback worldwide – in all kind of cultures and all kind of company sizes.
Over time, I’ve developed a sense for feedback. I learned how valuable contructive feedback is and how it helps others. But I have also noticed how devastating well-intentioned but incorrectly formulated feedback can be – both in terms of employee motivation and behavior.
The crux with critisism
Everyone loves to be praised and to be confirmed. Who doesn‘t like to be praised?
With criticism, on the other hand, it’s different. If someone asks you,
“Do you mind if I give you some feedback?”
You’ll probably say
“No, of course not!”
… and you ask for the feedback. But deep inside of you, it’s hard for you to hear negative feedback. And let’s face it: it will be negative.
If someone explicitly asks for permission to give you feedback, he doesn‘t just want to praise, he mostly wants to criticize. But criticism questions our self-esteem. It triggers our defense mechanisms, because we believe our reputation is in danger. Actually, we want to be praised, but not judged.
That’s why when you give feedback, it’s less important what you say than how you say it.
My number one rule or if you will my number one tip for contructive feedback is:
The No 1 rule: Feedback is a gift!
Always view feedback as a gift: whether you critize or you are critized.
A gift usually has a nice packaging – this is no different with feedback. For example, it‘s the way you express criticism. Criticism should be clear, but appreciative. If it‘s not, then there is a good chance that it will not be perceived as a gift.
But especially for the feedback taker this attitude is crucial to see feedback as a gift.
Feedback to the boss
Let’s assume that an employee approaches his boss and tells him in private:
“Boss, in the meeting right now. Well, what you told the staff was not so well received.”
Now it’s extremely important how does the boss react to such a critic.
The employee dared to give the higher ranking person – his boss – feedback on his behaviour and on how it was perceived by the staff. Doing this requires courage.
Why did the employee do this? He wants to signal to his boss that something has gone wrong. He suspects that his boss isn‘t aware of this at all. With this feedback, the employee wants to help his boss to assess the situation correctly.
It‘s a gift to the boss.
And now it depends on how the boss reacts. When the boss says:
“Yes, yes, I know what I said, but I did it because I wanted the staff to understand and to think about what we need to do and that it is done in the right way and…”
Blablabla… If the boss defends himself directly after he was critisized, then this is unfavorable. He doesn’t really accept the gift. He takes it as an attack and defends himself.
However, the employee only wanted to show the boss his point of view.
“Here dear boss, something went wrong. What you said was received in a way you may not wanted it to be received.”
It would be much more favorable, if the boss would react with
“Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad you told me. I have to think about that.”
So he really accepts the feedback as a gift.
Two most important words: “Thank you”!
Very important here: What do I do if someone gives me a gift? Exactly he says „Thank You.“
The boss can ask:
“Thank you for your feedback. What exactly did I say in the meeting what came out wrong?”
Then the employee can answer:
“Yes, boss, you know, you said we’d just skip lunch today. That wouldn’t be a problem, but it was received quite badly that you didn’t explain why we had to skip it.”
It’s okay to ask such questions to really understand the criticism. But the boss should not evaluate and justify the employee’s statement at that moment. He should accept it as it is meant. As a gift: He receives a foreign view on his behavior.
Try to really understand the criticism!
Unfortunately, most people take a defensive stance when giving feedback – even today, I still sometimes feel the same way.
But it is unfavorable. Because it can lead to the fact that the employee decides the next time not to give feedback to the boss:
“I’d rather keep my mouth shut. The boss always knows everything better anyway. Before I get involved in discussions with him, I’d rather not say anything …”
What a pity. Whether you are the boss and get criticised or you are an employee and get feedback from your boss, always keep in mind:
If you receive feedback, try to really understand it and take it as a gift – even if it is rough on you or does not come across as very appreciative and even if you don‘t agree with it at all.
If I’m criticized and don’t agree with the criticism, I try to listen carefully. I don’t always succeed but at least I try. The reason for that is the saying:
“Often a feedback says more about the person giving the feedback than about the person being criticized.“
So, if I listen well, I at least learn something about the other person’s point of view. I try to understand him or her.
And always keep in mind, if you do so:
If I understand the other person that doesn‘t mean that I agree!
The inspiring quote
Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let
people see you value both feedback and ideas.
Jim Trinka and Les Wallace