When looking to create a culture that is defined and informed by healthy review and encouragement it starts with asking for feedback. Leaders go first in demonstrating a posture of humility and a desire for continuous growth. What must we consider when it comes to giving feedback?
Giving helpful feedback requires THOUGHT and PRACTICE
Having an opinion is easy – communicating it in ways that are beneficial to the receiver is not. At least, not without some intentional consideration of language, purpose and context. It is completely unhelpful (and potentially destructive) to give feedback that is unprocessed.
Train your BRAIN!
There is no such thing as ‘constructive criticism’!
Criticism is the expressing of disapproval in response to someone’s faults or mistakes. It’s about de-construction not construction! Constructive critique? Yes! But not criticism. There’s no place for criticism in a healthy culture of feedback.
We need to intentionally train our brains to look and listen for opportunities to affirm, encourage and build up. When watching others in action, attending events, sitting in meetings, hanging out with family and friends … wherever!! …the question on our minds should be, “what can I appreciate about what is happening here?”
Leaders tend to look more analytically at things – which is part of what enables them to lead change and increasingly better outcomes. Left unchecked, this can lead to being highly critical, negative and fault-finding.
Encouragement is by far the greater tool for emboldening people for their best contributions and positioning them for maximum growth and development.
Stop at ENCOURAGEMENT.
People are often quite aware of their weaknesses, they trip over them every day.
We need to recognise that most people are their own worst critics. The internal dialogue of many is a replay of all that has gone wrong, could go wrong and is going wrong. The last thing they need is to have those thoughts verbalised externally and in the voice of others.
Personally, encouragement around what I can do and what is working has made the greatest contribution to my growth and improvement. I see this repeatedly in those I mentor, lead or train. Encouragement provides a core foundation for future development, a strong base from which to launch into addressing those areas of weakness or skill deficiency. When a person is confident in your confidence in them they are best positioned to tackle difficult stretch and growth.
A “PRAISE SANDWICH” needs more bread.
The old ‘praise sandwich’ – one piece of criticism sandwiched between two positive comments – is a good start, but research tells us that this ratio is inadequate. Most studies indicate that the ratio is more like 6:1 of positive words or experiences to counteract the negative for a person to reflect on an encounter, relationship or overall experience as ‘positive’.
Always ASSUME the BEST.
When giving feedback after failure or that requires a degree of rebuke, always assume the best. In trust-filled environments we must start with the belief that others intend for positive outcomes rather than assuming intentional failure or shortfall.
“I know you were hoping the game would include everyone but there were too many left on the sidelines.” as opposed to “Why wouldn’t you play a game that included everyone?”
Not only will it nett a more positive response, it’s a reflection of your own heart, attitude, focus and discipline to have gone to the best case scenario rather than assuming the worst.
Assuming the best positions us alongside someone in their fight for greater personal character and outcomes rather than in opposition to them.
Distrust is cancerous to healthy culture and relationships. Choose trust.
Give an ACTIONABLE take-away.
Ensure that your feedback conversation lands in a way that the receiver can walk away with some practical next steps. What can they do differently? How can they address the shortfall? What might they think about for next time? Who could they enlist to help them toward a better outcome?
Some situations are so specific and unique that they are unlikely to be repeated but there are always principles within them that can be adopted and transferred. Constructive feedback will help tease those out and highlight them so that a person feels they’ve added extra tools to their belt.
STEWARD the moment with care.
Remember, when your feedback is invited or required you are given incredible power. Another person is submitting themselves to your opinions and your words – this is incredibly sacred ground and is a position of high vulnerability for them.
Regardless of the intensity of the situation, don’t forget you’re dealing with a person.
In a healthy environment you might establish capacity for more robust levels of feedback and review but this is developed gradually and gently.
In the rush of a moment or the busyness of personal or organisational life, we can be careless with our feedback. We can flippantly throw out observations that carry great personal impact to others. Or, we can neglect to take the time to speak encouragement. Often in meetings where time is short, we focus on what needs to be fixed as it seems most pressing – but sometimes, the greater investment might be to celebrate what ought to be affirmed so that it will be repeated.