Let’s face it. Giving feedback to a colleague or supervisor can feel so precarious and career-limiting that most employees would rather bite their tongues than engage in a crucial conversation about behaviors, emotions and shared expectations.
Unfortunately, you cannot censor yourself forever. Feedback has a direct impact on employee engagement. Why would anybody stick around and focus on organizational goals if people can't provide honest and respectful insights?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression with feedback, so it’s important to get it right from the beginning. Here are some helpful ways on how to give feedback that lasts.
Only give feedback when you want to change someone's life for the better.
There’s a fine line between useful and critical, and most of us are on the wrong side of that divide. Avoid falling off the cliff by asking yourself whether you’re offering feedback to change someone's life. The life in question might belong to your colleague, or maybe it belongs to you. When feedback is delivered to change someone's life, it’s a gift instead of criticism.
Use fewer words.
In the book Radical Candor, Kim Scott tells stories of leaders who dance around the issues and never deliver actionable feedback. The result is disastrous. Managers are ruinously empathetic, and employees never hear what they need to hear until it’s too late. Feedback can come in all forms, but the best feedback is brief. Write down what you want to say, practice saying it, and focus on the behaviors you want to stop, start, and continue.
Get offline and into the real world
Two phenomena are happening in the modern workplace: more people are working remotely, and it’s overlapping with our increasingly casual use of technology to communicate relevant information over digital channels. When the stakes are high, too many of us pick up our phones and react. Instead, we should choose a medium to match the message. Whether you work with your colleagues in an office or communicate through collaborative messaging channels, feedback is best delivered in person and through the sound of your voice.
Calm your nervous system
Have you ever seen a comedian totally bomb on stage? It’s uncomfortable to watch. We physically cringe and ache for the person who’s blowing it. That's because stress and anxiety are contagious. Mirror neurons kick in and the comedian's palpable fear becomes contagious. Well, imagine how it feels getting feedback from someone who’s nervous and wound tight?
The best way to deliver feedback is to de-escalate it.
Take it down a notch. Practice mindfulness. Do deep breathing exercises. Rehearse what you need to say. When the stakes are high, don't make things worse by bringing your personal anxieties into the conversation.
Pick your time wisely
Finally, the best way to give feedback is at the moment when the memory of the behavior is fresh. Whether it's positive feedback or a constructive message on how to change a particular behavior, the best time to change someone's life is right now.
Go forth and give feedback well
Pause for a moment. Collect your thoughts. Choose your words. Speak face-to-face whenever possible. And deliver your feedback from the heart in a clear, calm, collected manner.