Rosalie Boulter, Paradigm Shifters Consulting Inc.
One very important skill in Effective Communication is the ability to provide great Feedback.
How often is feedback delivered that doesn’t result in the expected change?
The Challenges of Incorporating Feedback
It seems people believe that when they give somebody feedback, the receiver should have the ability to change in the direction desired. The receiver should immediately know what is being asked of them and how exactly to change it, as if they could just wave a wand and be the person the other has requested. It confounds the giver when the receiver does not immediately react accordingly. I hear about this all the time from Leaders. “I told that person what to do and they aren’t doing it. Time to fire them!”. It is also as though the change is a one step process. You behave this way and I want you to behave that way – simple.
In my own life I think of where I receive instruction and feedback. One area is in my yoga practice. As I continue to practice, my body becomes able to do things that seemed impossible at first. It really didn’t matter how many times the teacher gave a certain instruction, my body simply would not allow it. Sometimes I understand what the instruction means, such as “square your hips to the front of the room”. Impossible perhaps, but understood. Other cues such as “lift the inner arches of your feet”, and you just think they are messing with your mind… Nobody can lift their arches.
It Takes Time
Some cues I think I understand, and then discover I didn’t. Shift your weight back toward your heels in down dog. I thought I was doing that and then one day about 7 years into my practice, my weight shifted back toward my heels! Until I actually experienced it, I had no real idea of what it truly meant. Now that I am aware I can keep trying. I don’t get it every time but gradually I can more frequently access how to do this. Effective communication is starting to occur between my brain and my body.
Do Your Best
So in yoga, I keep going. I listen to the instructions or cues. I do my best to react and apply them and I continue to find ones that I understand but can’t do yet, ones that I totally ignore because right now they are impossible, and ones that I now naturally fully incorporate.
Giving Effective Feedback at Work
At work, we rarely seem to realize we may have told somebody to do something that they might understand but not be able to do, or something they don’t understand at all and they think you are messing with them, or something that they think they understand but because they haven’t truly experienced it, they aren’t really applying correctly.
Incorporate Feedback with Experiential Learning
I had a session a while back in my personal development where I was given feedback in the group that I simply didn’t get. I didn’t see at all how what I had done wasn’t already what had been suggested. It was an amazing experience that as I pondered and puzzled over this feedback, I participated in another similar situation and experienced somebody else demonstrating the trait I’d been given feedback about! Now I got it! Effective communication had occurred – I understood the gap between what I had done and what they had done. I saw the difference, and I experienced the benefit of doing it that way. Now I could apply it. Before I couldn’t. This is one reason why experiential learning is so effective. All the words in the world couldn’t have helped me apply the feedback I was given. 5 seconds of experiencing it? Got it.
Check in with the Receiver of your Feedback
So before harshly judging folks because they haven’t responded appropriately to your feedback, consider whether you’ve given them enough information so that they know what to do and that they have the ability to do so and apply it. Check that they understand the benefit of the change, don’t automatically assume that they are deliberately not following your instructions. Checking out assumptions, checking for understanding, and presuming positive intent are key for effective communication and productive feedback
Feedback is a complex topic and there are many, many more facets to it than I’ve addressed here. This is only one aspect, yet one that you can improve upon today.
- Being as detailed as you can about the feedback is key when practicing effective communication. Let people know the precise behaviour that wasn’t working. Something like: “You need to be more respectful” is not detailed, nor precise. It isn’t actionable. Something like: “I’ve noticed you don’t respond to me when I say good morning, and the impact is that I feel disrespected. How can we shift this?” is more actionable, plus has the benefit of not imposing a solution.
- Let people know the impact of their current behaviour, and what the impact of the new behaviour might be.
- Be clear about the behaviour you want to see.
- Check out if they understand and truly get it in ways other than asking “Do you understand?”. That usually doesn’t work. They say yes and nobody knows what they understand. Demonstrate. Ask them to demonstrate.
- Identify what a first, small step might be… In time or project management processes you check: Is this a task (single action) or is this a project (many individual actions required)? Try to give people small actions rather than a big project they don’t know how to turn into a series of tasks.
- Also remember that projects often take time. One task on a to do list can be quick but if it is really a project dressed up like a task, it can take more time than expected.
- Start making the shift from Feedback to Feedforward. Basically begin focusing on desired future behaviour rather than what has happened in the past.
- Finally, make sure you’ve really listened to their side! Remember that feedback is usually more about the giver than the receiver……….
What have you experienced when receiving feedback? What’s helped you the most to incorporate the feedback?
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About the Author
Rosalie is a Partner in Paradigm Shifters Consulting Inc. and is an ICF Certified Coach. To get in touch to connect, start a conversation, read past blogs, or get information on upcoming courses, please check out www.paradigm-shifters.com.