No matter your professional role, you must remember that feedback plays a crucial part in doing daily business. Without it, there’s no growth – neither for companies nor for their people.
And while, in business, we often associate feedback with performance evaluation, we must learn to understand that it’s actually an integral part of all important conversations. Whether between you and your employees, colleagues, or even your leaders.
Are You Ready to Listen?
There’s one thing that’s irreplaceable when entering a crucial conversation – being prepared to really listen.
When we enter a conversation with a growth mindset, we allow ourselves to be agile in finding solutions. We focus on what we can learn from a situation. We listen for ways to help. And, we know that improving doesn’t equal establishing our leadership by proving someone else to be wrong.
It’s also important to understand that active listening is a powerful tool. When we’re prepared to truly listen to our conversation partners, it increases the chances of them doing the same. And that triggers a growth mindset, which is essential for learning in crucial feedback conversations.
And that’s what turns feedback into feedforward.
There are very few tools as powerful as feedforward. As a tool that revolves around the future instead of the past, it’s the best way to point out actions that need to start or continue when seeking success.
Of course, to make constructive feedback and feedforward work for your team, you must not forget the power of questions. Think about everything you can ask to support curiosity, engagement, creativity, and learning. What can you do to provoke thought? To open insights? To drive growth?
Feedback Without Trust?
Here’s the thing, if you’re not ready to listen, you’re not prepared to give feedback. It’s that simple. And, if that’s the case, you must understand that your efforts won’t yield the results you’re after.
Instead of pushing the issue, postpone the conversation. Practice mindfulness. Ask powerful questions in situations that you do have a grip on. Then, when you’ve got it figured out, come back to the more challenging task at hand.
To be able to give precious feedback, you must understand that it requires trust. And, as trust is about creating psychological safety, it is your job to create that safe conversation setting.
One thing to remember about psychological safety is that it’s only present when a leader dares to show their vulnerability.
People desire and appreciate feedback because it fuels their growth. But they fear it as well.
The act of being evaluated always comes with a potential threat. To our self-image and our self-esteem. It is a risk, an uncertainty, and it requires emotional exposure. According to Brene Brown, it’s the very definition of vulnerability. And, as a leader, you must learn to open yourself up to vulnerability – an act that requires courage above all.
The point that resonates the most with me in this is “I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.”
Often I see leaders who approach feedback as good students. They apply all the principles of giving impactful feedback. And still, they fail. The reason? Because they focus on the evaluation, then forget to follow up. And that’s a mistake because following up is where change happens! Even worse they follow up and when there is no positive change they shame or blame the person. So, all the effects of impactful feedback vanish.
What If You Become Impatient?
Giving feedback is not an easy job. And not least because it requires a great deal of preparation, then even more patience waiting for it to turn into growth.
For this reason, we must always approach these conversations with an air of understanding – of being prepared to step into someone else’s shoes.
In the end, we must learn that our own criteria of success or methodology don’t always coincide with other people’s beliefs of what’s good. And these differences in opinion don’t mean that one of us is wrong. (And even if that’s the case, so what?!)
Constructive feedback isn’t a lecture. It’s the act of nurturing someone and helping them grow. In whatever direction their path may be.
Therefore, the next time you head out to advise someone from your team, take a step back. Look for the small signals telling you you’re being impatient. Pause. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself “It’s time to practice empathy.”
This is the only way to stay open-minded. Moreover, it’s the best way to send the message that your motives are genuine. That you’re looking out for them. That you are ready to accept your conversation partner’s openness and turn it into a growth opportunity for both of you.