People do not like getting negative feedback. This is not just my opinion -- psychologists researching appraisal and management of work confirm it to be true. So it is no wonder that many leaders avoid tough conversations with their teammates.
But while you might not enjoy it, there is no other option than to give and receive critical feedback if you want the team to improve. Besides, your teammates really want your honest input.
A 2018 survey by a behavioral assessment firm found that "management ratings fluctuate wildly based on how much feedback the employee feels he or she is getting." In the study, 77 percent of teammates said that bosses who ranked as "great managers" gave just the right amount of feedback. Meanwhile, 81 percent of teammates said "bad managers" gave too little or no feedback.
Of course, delivering effective feedback can be challenging, especially when what you have to say is critical.
People dread having to share negative comments, so they often avoid it all together. This is not just my opinion -- a 2018 study at the University of Chicago confirms this to be true. The reason, according to the researchers, is that people assume sharing their honest thoughts with others will have bad consequences.
But the only way to help your whole team perform at its best is by being honest with kindness. And it turns out you might even enjoy the process. That same University of Chicago study found that people giving feedback enjoyed the conversation more than they thought they would. The fear of how the receiver would react was also often unfounded -- the study showed people on the receiving end responded less negatively than expected.
We need both praise and criticism to help grow our skills and stay motivated to achieve. And there are different kinds of feedback -- from reviewing a specific task to evaluating overall performance. But for most people, the hardest feedback to deliver is the critical kind.
The key is knowing exactly how to effectively communicate, especially when an issue needs to be addressed and a really hard conversation is needed. Here are the steps:
Before you jump right into the issue, ask your teammate questions: Can you tell me what happened? What would you do differently next time? This will help you understand the thought process behind the result. And your teammate will be less defensive when they realize they are not in for a lecture but a two-way exchange.
Once you understand the context, it is best to be direct if you have a particular point of view. Use unambiguous language to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation. Your goal is to make the exact issue clear and determine what went sideways.
Stick to facts
Sometimes these conversations can get emotional. You can avoid this by staying objective. Use numbers and point to real examples to illustrate what went right and where there is room for improvement.
Do not bury
Critical comments can be delivered with kindness. But be cautious of burying the true message by starting with a positive statement. For example, stay away from confusing statements like, "Great job, there are just a couple problems." Instead, of a sweeping statement like "great job" you could focus on the effort put forward or acknowledge the difficulty of the task.
You need to end with action. The point of feedback is how things can be improved for next time. You should come prepared with your own ideas -- whether it is creating new processes or providing educational resources. Solicit the teammate's input as well.
Make it a habit
Delivering feedback once a year (or less) is not enough. In a 2017 Gallup study, 48 percent of respondents said they receive performance reviews only annually -- and 26 percent say they are reviewed less frequently than that. Yikes. Do not wait for these conversations at formal reviews. Give feedback consistently so you can help teammates continuously improve.
You might not look forward to delivering critical feedback, but it is absolutely essential.
And as a leader in title or action, you should not wait for teammates to tell you how you can improve either. Solicit feedback on the feedback (meta, I know) and ask if they have what they need. Are there ways that you could do things differently?
Transparent communication helps everyone move forward and be better together -- the individual teammate, the team, and the company.
How do you deliver feedback to your teammates?