Have you ever been in a situation where you’re walking down a busy street and you can see somebody coming the other way, and you’ve noticed that they’ve got a piece of paper trailing from underneath their shoe?
Or been out to dinner, and the person sitting opposite you has got something stuck in their teeth? Or even at work, where the boss is constantly mispronouncing the name of the new team member?
The question is should you say something?
Even more importantly, if you are one of those people, would you want others to say something to you?
The answer, of course, is yes.
In all of these situations the common thread is that you are required to give feedback.
In the workplace, feedback is a tool for personal growth, as it allows individuals to communicate to each other the impact of their behaviour and the reality of their performance.
It’s essential to foster a culture where feedback is viewed by employees through a positive lens if you want to build a high performance team.
The great thing about feedback is that it’s one of the most powerful tools for helping yourself and others to be the best that they can be and reach their potential.
It makes us and others aware of the things that we’re doing in our life that are really working, that are positive and we should continue to do, as well as some of the things that we may need to look at changing, starting, stopping or doing a little bit differently in order to be more effective.
The reality is though, as leader or manager, giving feedback to an employee in the workplace, can sometimes be uncomfortable. And if negative feedback is given in the wrong way, it can actually do more harm than good.
Think back to a time when a manager has criticised you… chances are you felt defensive, a little hurt and as if they simply did not get it?
As managers this is exactly what we need to avoid, if we want to use feedback to create a high performance team.
In this article we’ll share frameworks and rules to enable you to effectively give feedback to your team.
Understand Attitudes vs. Behaviour
It’s absolutely crucial when learning about feedback to understand the difference between attitude and behaviour, because we can only provide feedback on one of these.
One of the best stories to illustrate this relates to a man called Stephen Covey, who was the famous author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Many years ago, Covey was catching a train in New York City. After a few stops, a young father and his two children came onto the carriage, and those two children started causing a mischief and havoc on the train.
One of them bumped into Stephen Covey, and he remembers looking over at the father, naturally, thinking: “Are you going to do something about your kids? Your kids just knocked me, do you care?”
Rather than reprimanding his children, the father just stared at the floor and ignored the situation.
This behaviour continued for a while, with the children becoming increasingly rowdy, being disruptive to a number of the other passengers on the carriage. The father continued to do nothing.
This behaviour continued to the point where Stephen Covey, was staring the the father, thinking:
“What’s wrong with you? You’ve got a really bad attitude. Look at your children, your children are causing all of this chaos and yet it looks like you don’t care.”
All of a sudden, the father came to his senses, reprimanded the children and started to apologise to the other passengers.
He looked at Stephen Covey, and said: “I’m really sorry. We’ve just had a tough day, we’ve just come from the hospital, their mother’s just died, and I’m trying to work out how I should tell them.”
Try to imagine how you would feel at this moment. Try to imagine how Stephen Covey was feeling.
He remembers thinking to himself, “I was judging this man’s attitude. I was judging this person as a parent. Yet, how could I actually know what was going on in his mind? How could I know what he was feeling at that point?”
The reason we tell this story, is because when it comes to feedback, you can only ever provide feedback on behaviour. You can never, ever, provide feedback on attitude, because attitude is something that we cannot see.
The Three Golden Rules for Giving Feedback
To ensure someone is receiving feedback as opposed to criticism or praise, there are three golden rules that should be followed.
- Specific – Focused on a time, place, meeting, email, phone call, date
- Facts – Cannot be based on someone’s perception or view
- Behaviour – Feedback can never be given on what a person is thinking, mindset or attitude, only on the behaviours a person shows.
An example of how this structure has been used effectively:
“You could have improved your customer service this morning, by offering the elderly customer assistance loading her shopping into her car. Please ask her if should would like help next time she has more than 2 bags.”
Here are a few examples of how you should not give feedback.
“It seems like you don’t really care about your team based on how you have been treating them lately.”
“You have achieved above budget lately.”
How to Structure Feedback
So now you’re at a point where you have a solid understanding of what to say when giving feedback. But how to do you initiate the conversation, and ensure you get the best outcome for everyone?
In order to help you with this, we’ve outlined the PEER model, to help you prepare and structure your feedback.
- Permission – Ask the person for permission to give them some feedback. This is important because it will ensure the person is open to receiving the feedback and will actively listen.
- Explain – State the behaviour you have observed, positive or negative, using the 3 golden rules we outlined above; Specific, Facts, Behaviour.
- Effect – Outline the effect this behaviour had on other people or on performance.
- Result – Describe the behaviour you would like to receive as a result of this feedback.
If it’s positive constructive feedback, let them know you want them to continue that behaviour.
If it’s negative constructive feedback, let them know to start, stop or change.
Now you know have the tools you need to give constructive feedback to your team, you might be wondering what situations you should be giving feedback? Or even how you should seek and receive more feedback for yourself?
For more advice, guidance and practical tools on the art of giving, receiving and seeking feedback – both in the workplace, and in personal situations, check out the short course we have put together here.