Feedback is something that evokes a sort of love-hate dynamic for a lot of people. On the one hand, we love the idea of feedback because it can help us grow. On the other hand, it can leave us feeling pretty raw, and sometimes people use the idea of feedback to attack us instead.
We Can’t Fix Anything
There is a tendency when we give feedback to people to want to fix the problems we see in them. This is especially true if we’re more senior or even their boss.
The danger here is that oftentimes the people we give this feedback may not be ready to hear feedback along these lines, and it will not be a healthy session.
So, we have to realize that we aren’t fixing them because we can’t. At most, we are making an offer that we hope is regarded as a gift. We can usually help by asking if there are particular areas they’d like to focus on when we are discussing feedback.
Supported or Challenged
I learned to alter how I do feedback after attending some introductory co-active coaching classes. Most feedback advice you’ll hear tells you to identify the topic, give specific examples, and offer a suggestion.
This isn’t the only way to do feedback and is what a lot of us ultimately don’t enjoy, and we don’t often get a lot of value out of it.
While I’m not saying that the format is wrong, there is almost no attention paid to setting up the conversation before you offer that type of feedback.
Setting up the conversation is important, and one question that I use almost every time is this:
Do you want to be supported or challenged in this feedback?
This is a much better question than asking if you should be honest or not. The supported or challenged question skips through the pointless question about honesty and gets right to what is important, which is what does the person need to hear right now?
Can I offer feedback that supports what they’re currently doing or one of their strengths? Of course, I can. Can I similarly offer feedback that would be a challenge for them where they are today? Yes, of course, I can.
The point is that this question helps direct the type of feedback we give, which helps it turn into more of a gift than a wound.
Next time you are in a feedback situation, use this question before you give the feedback and see what happens!