Feedback … the nuances

CoachingCorrective or performance feedback is a frequent practice in the field of education and in learning generally. In business or a professional context it typically involves a team member receiving either formal or informal feedback on his or her team leader or peers.

In a previously published article entitled, Business or … performance coaching, I suggested several suggestions for providing effective coaching. However, there are times when either team members or team leaders find it necessary to request performance feedback.

Requesting feedback is the most direct method of finding out if you’re on track to achieve your goals, meet expectations, use your time effectively, and get your points across. Even when you request feedback you probably have your own ideas and perceptions about how you’re performing. But when you request and accept feedback, it also shows that you value team and leadership viewpoints and are willing to consider them. Once you have the sought feedback you can objectively determine if you’re on target toward meeting performance and organizational goals, meet expectations and perform as effectively as possible.

  • You can build trust by showing team members and the organizational leadership that you want to perform your job as expected and demonstrate that you value their opinions and insights.
  • When requesting feedback about your performance, be sure to ask open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer or a vague response, such as “good” or “fine.” For example, don’t ask, “How did I do at leading the meeting?” Instead, you will receive more actionable feedback by asking, “What could I have done to get through more agenda items?” or “How could I have given more people a chance to offer ideas?”
  • Be specific about the feedback you need and describe how the feedback you want relates to you and your team goals.  One way to frame the request for feedback is to ask, “What you should start, stop, and continue doing with regard to your performance.” We must consider that it is difficult and awkward for associates to give feedback for improvement because they want to avoid being negative or risk hurting your feelings. Asking for feedback this way will put them at ease because you’re asking them for positive and feedback to improve performance.
  • We should listen and respond with empathy when providing or receiving feedback. Often, when giving feedback, people will tell you how your actions made them feel. By saying you understand their feelings, you show that such feelings are important and valuable for helping you to improve.
  • Clarify unclear feedback to ensure that the feedback for improvement describes what could be done more effectively, a suggested alternative, and why the alternative action would be better. By the same token positive feedback should describe what was done effectively and why it was effective. We should always sincerely thank people for their feedback. By doing so, we enhance their self-esteem and make them more open to feedback you provide to them in the future.

Here are two examples of requesting and accepting quality of feedback:

Example (Requesting):

  • Don’t ask, “Is this what you need?” This is not an open-ended question.
  • Instead, ask, “How does this data compare to what you were looking for?” or “How could I have completed this job more efficiently?”

Example (Accepting):

  • Don’t say, “OK, I’ll keep that in mind.” This response seems insincere and lacks empathy.
  • Instead, say, “I hear what you’re saying, Dave. I know I need to improve my follow-up. It’s causing frustration for you and your group.”

Related Articles:   Coaching … how did I do?   and   When an Associate Struggles … COACH!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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