by guest blogger, Joe Mull
“Joe…there are two types of people in this world. When the time comes to take their medicine, some people want the shot, and some people want bubble-gum syrup.”
This was the first real advice I got about managing others. A few months into my first job out of college I was managing a team of 9 and my supervisor and I were discussing feedback. With one foot already into retirement he wasn’t very interested in coaching me, a green-as-could-be manager. Instead he offered me that metaphorical gem.
Time and experience have taught me that his metaphor sacrifices quite a lot of nuance among people, but back then it helped me realize two things: First, not everyone receives feedback the same way. Second, the “golden rule” (treat others the way you want to be treated) doesn’t always apply.
Fast forward through 13 years of managing teams, training new managers, and designing and facilitating leadership development workshops, and I’ve learned a thing or two about giving feedback. It takes preparation and practice. There’s no “right” way of doing it. Also, giving feedback takes courage, especially when giving feedback to a colleague or “managing up” and being honest with a superior.
12 keys to competently and effectively deliver feedback:
· Be direct and concise. Know what you want to say, say it, then be quiet. Stay out of your own way. If there’s silence, resist the urge to fill it. They will. And that’s often where insight lives.
· Be specific and objective. Avoid generalities like everyone, never, and always. Identify specific events, behaviors, outcomes, or conversations.
· Include cause and effect. “When _______ happens it results in __________.” Make a case for why the concern you are expressing should concern them.
· Address behavior not personality. Behavior is observable and documentable. It’s something you can watch someone do. Don’t tell someone they need “to be friendlier.” That’s a vague descriptor and it’s subjective. Say instead “You need to smile, make eye contact, and display more energy when greeting patients.” This takes practice.
· Don’t be freaked if feelings show up. The person you are speaking to is a human being. We emote. Don’t get rattled if it happens. It’s part of the gig. Talk through it respectfully.
· Be specific about expectations going forward. Discuss the change you are looking for. Ask for that change. If speaking with a direct report you may be able to mandate. Giving feedback laterally (to a colleague) or up (to a superior) will require coming to agreement on future steps through dialogue.
· Don’t apologize for giving feedback. Starting off with “I’m sorry to have to tell you this…” is like saying “I’m sorry for having this thought but I’m going to say it anyway.”
· Don’t ask “how are you feeling?” This focuses on their emotional response to getting feedback rather than on the substance of what was said. Instead ask “What are your thoughts?”
· Use open-ended questions. Ask “How do you think we should proceed?” “What steps can we take to change this?” Open ended questions invite discussion responses. Avoid Yes/No questions (“Do you think you can make that change?” “Do you understand?”). You get one word answers (“Yes.”) and no proof.
· Be the calmest person in the room. If they escalate, avoid matching them. Call for a break or reschedule if emotions are running high.
· Discuss.Feedback isn’t a one way street. Be prepared to engage in a dialogue about what you’ve shared. Be open to their input. Treat it as new information to consider.
Document what was agreed upon. Take time to discuss the feedback again shortly after the initial conversation. Point out the positive imp
act of any changed behavior.
It took me a few years of practice and failure to realize that effective feedback conversations actually blend the styles implied in the shot-and-bubble-gum-syrup analogy. But more than anything effective delivery of feedback always benefits from the presence of trust. Leaders must work every day to develop trust with those around them. By cultivating the relationships you have with members of your team, your colleagues, and your leaders, you bank the trust necessary to deliver feedback when it’s called for.
Know what else I’ve learned?
Feedback conversations NEVER go the way you think they will. Sometimes you have to stop worrying about how to do it and just do it. It may be uncomfortable, but like any skill that develops through practice, the more you get out there and do it, the easier it gets.
Coincidentally, the same can be said for getting a shot.
Joe Mull, M.Ed is the Founder and President of Ally Training & Development, which specializes in management training and leadership development for front-line and mid-level managers in healthcare. Why? Because people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. He teaches healthcare managers the skills and tools they need to ensure people will not only stay, but thrive.
Great tips Joe!!
Would love to read YOUR comments about giving and receiving feedback.
Thanks for reading. Take care and stay connected!