No one enjoys difficult conversations, probably even those who are adept at it. Constructive feedback is one such difficult conversation – be it with a team member, peer, or manager.
Such conversations tend to get emotional, but what makes it especially difficult is the difference in perspective. The person giving the feedback is likely to have a very different perspective from the person receiving it.
Consider a common constructive feedback area: quality or missed timelines of work
The manager is likely to have larger picture: how the work fits in overall org context, potential opportunities, resource availability, expectations from not so obvious stakeholders etc.
Whereas the team member knows the nitty gritty of the work, on-the ground challenges (many of which completely unexpected) and the efforts put in.
It is hard for either member to know other’s perspective, and even harder to fully appreciate and acknowledge it. This challenge has become even more pronounced in hybrid / virtual working.
As a result, the feedback conversation ends up demotivating the receiver and frustrating the feedback provider.
Here’s what I have seen few successful leaders do while sharing constructive feedback:
- Start with intent – why feedback is being shared, why he or she cares. It’s not enough to start with intent, it’s critical to call it out explicitly. This helps reassure and builds trust.
- Understand the current reality faced by the receiver, listen with open mind. Then share own perspective and why things need to be different.
- Agree on the common outcomes both want to achieve, keeping aside perspective differences. The extent of common ground, when we care to explore, is often surprising.
- Explore options – what actions will be taken, what will be done differently and seek/give commitment.