We’ve covered the necessity of giving feedback and the art of balancing positive and negative feedback. In the next 60 seconds, we will dive deeper into giving feedback that is constructive, not destructive. This One-Minute Coaching™ will give you a clear, 4-step process to becoming a more effective executive.
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The best constructive critiques always focus on what people have done and can do (behavior) rather than their character or personality. People can change behavior. They cannot easily change the core of who they are. By focusing on what people can actually change—what is within their control—you empower them to make improvements in their behavior.
When you lead well, you will find that those you lead can change, and with good feedback, there will be fewer and fewer setbacks and mistakes. Start the feedback loop on your direct reports sooner rather than later so their behavioral challenges do not grow and become rooted.
How to Give Constructive Feedback
1. Be Specific
Focus on the actual behavior, using verbs instead of judgmental adjectives. Communicate clear facts that people can understand and act upon.
If you wish to address a pattern or habit, pick one significant incident that illustrates the key problem. Then ask reflective questions, such as, “Have you gotten feedback about this before?” or, “Why do you think this has been an issue?” to address the behavior. You could say, “I noticed your body language during the meeting. What is that about?” or “That behavior seems out of character for you… what is going on?”
2. Offer a Solution
A critique should identify ways to fix a problem. Otherwise, it only serves to demoralize and demotivate. Try to open the door to unexplored possibilities and alternatives. Your suggestions can provide a broader perspective or context. Remember that awareness is the most important step toward a solution.
You could ask, “What do you think you can do to address this issue?” or “Why do you think this issue keeps coming up?”
3. Be Present and Listen
Critiques are most effective in private. Don’t try to ease your own discomfort by making public comments to “send a message.” This often backfires.
Also, try to get live, either in person or via the phone. Avoid a written note that can be easily misinterpreted. There is a time and place for documenting in writing, but your first time addressing an issue should be more informal.
Of course, you need to be fully present and allow the recipient to respond and seek clarification. You could ask, “What do you think about my feedback for you?” or, “What questions do you have about what I have said?”
Listening well may reveal facts unknown or challenges unseen. When you are “with” people, you honor and value them as human beings. This is the most important part of the process and can create bridges toward change or a peaceful solution.
4. Start Positive and Be Sensitive
Remember to start with a positive. Be attuned to the impact of what you say and how you say it. Even when you have good intentions, you don’t know how your message will be received. Your greatest empathy skills are required to avoid provoking a backlash of resentment. Criticism is best used as an opportunity to work together to solve a problem, but you need to make this intention clear.
Using an executive coach can help clear up limiting beliefs and assumptions so that feedback can be used effectively. If you are a CEO or other bona fide executive, coaching may well be the perfect way to grow your skillset.
Click the button below to schedule a complimentary executive coaching session with me. I think you will be surprised with the results of even one session!
- What are your thoughts about how well you give feedback?
- Have you tried the feedback strategies from our other One-Minute Coaching™ posts on this topic, “Giving Feedback Is Risky, but Necessary” and “Balancing Positive & Negative Feedback”?
- What impact did they have?
Finally, here is a parting question to take you to a more advanced level of executive functioning:
- As an executive, how can you impart these skills to your direct reports?
Will your direct reports perform better if they, too, improve their skills in giving feedback? Of course they will!
Aim for a coaching culture that builds trust and seeks growth. Perhaps now is the time to receive executive coaching so you can be more effective in all your work relationships.