Feedback is a bit of a buzzword, but it's still a useful concept. Feedback, as I define it, is the process or sharing share of experience and wisdom in order to hone the skills of and entire team.
Defined that way, feedback is different than merely communicating or coaching. Communication can be entirely passive, like watching other people give presentation. And coaching tends to be one-way, with the coach helping the player to improve.
By contrast, Feedback requires the willing participation of both parties. It is a two-way give-and-take in which both people learn and grow, thereby resulting in a smarter, better team at all levels.
Here are some guidelines:
1. Give feedback after small victories.
People are the most receptive to feedback when they're making positive progress but there's still room for improvement. Their progress gives them the confidence required to consider new approaches.
Wrong: "You're making progress. Good job!"
Right: "You're making progress. Where do you think there might be room for some improvement?"
2. Don't give feedback after a big win.
When a team experiences a big win, they want to celebrate. This is therefore not the right time or place for a discussion about what the team could have done better.
Wrong: "We broke all our sales records, but we could have made even more money if we had...."
Right: "You broke all our sales records. Let's celebrate!"
3. Don't give feedback after a big loss, either.
Just as a big win is a time to celebrate, a big loss is when you want lick your wounds. It's only after everyone has had a chance to mourn and and get perspective that it's possible to productively consider mistakes and plans to correct them.
Wrong: "We lost the account! Hey, next time don't..."
Right: "We lost the account! Let's call it quits for the day, get some rest and do a post mortem in the morning."
4. Begin with a honest compliment.
Opening the conversation with an honest compliment creates a "safe place" where the other person is willing to consider new ideas. Following up with a non-threatening question helps the other person evaluate his or her own performance.
Wrong: "Here's what you should have done..."
Right: "That presentation was strong overall. Are there any areas where you wish it had been better?"
5. Never vent your frustration.
While it might make YOU feel better to get your worries and insecurities, it will make everyone else around you feel worse. This creates resentment and passive resistance rather than positive change.
Right: "I feel really frustrated right now so I'm going to take a breather. We can talk about this when I'm feeling more relaxed and resourceful."
6. Listen before giving feedback.
When you listen carefully, step into the other person's shoes and appreciate their experience and perspective, it helps them to move into a mental and emotional state where they're truly ready to learn.
Wrong: (interrupting) "Yeah, yeah, I know all that. Here's what you need to do."
Right: (after listening) "OK. What I hear you saying is..."
7. Attack the behavior, not the person.
When giving feedback, focus on changing the other person's behavior rather than the other person's character. The reason is simple. Getting somebody to DO something different is difficult. Getting somebody to BECOME someone else is impossible.
Wrong: "You're not reliable! This is the third day this week you've been late!"
Right: "What's going on? You're usually on time, but this week you've been late three times."
8. Don't stockpile criticisms.
Because feedback is difficult to give, it's a natural tendency to stockpile comments, waiting for the "right moment" to call the other person's attention to them. This overwhelms the other person who then usually becomes defensive and less likely to change behaviors.
Wrong: "Well, as long were talking about your mistakes, I've been unhappy with much of your work for the past six months."
Right: "While it's fresh in our minds, let's talk about how we might make your presentation stronger."
9. Be specific.
Generic comments make people feel good for few minutes but don't change their behavior. Being specific tells the the other person what's working (or what's not) thereby encouraging more (or less) of the same.
Wrong: "Great job!"
Right: "That opening slide really grabbed everyone's attention!"