Feedback without Judgment

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Giving feedback is a delicate process. It is a conversation that involves feelings, egos, judgment, bias, and misunderstandings. Xavier Lederer co-authored this article that provides the key steps on how to give feedback to ensure constructive outcomes. 

When I was a young manager, I was panicked by the idea of giving feedback – until I was given a clear 3-step methodology to have ego-less, collaborative, and actionable feedback conversations. Having a feedback conversation is about preparing yourself mentally in order to avoid being judgmental – towards yourself or towards the other person. Our previous post was about overcoming your fear of feedback. This article lays out three simple steps to give constructive feedback in a way that contributes to your team members’ personal development.

  1. Prepare the conversation

Remind yourself why you are giving feedback. Your goal is to improve the situation or the person’s performance. You won’t accomplish that by being harsh, critical or offensive. Focus on the person’s personal development needs: what can the person learn from your feedback? Similarly, feedback is not about venting your own frustration. Rather it is about clearly explaining the rational and emotional effects on you or the organization/business of the other person’s behavior. This is also why it is important that you describe your own emotions: don’t let the other person make assumptions about them.

Double-check your facts. Good feedback needs to be fact-based. Take the necessary time to gather all the facts and to cross-check them. Get input from several people: we all have our own biases, and you want to develop an objective picture of the reality. It also shows that you have taken the time to prepare it. The last thing that you want in a feedback conversation, is to start debating whether you have your facts right.

Stick to the facts and never make assumptions. Don’t assume people’s intentions: you don’t know what is happening in other people’s minds. A wrong assumption in a feedback conversation can be considered infuriatingly unfair by the person receiving the feedback. Your own interpretation of the facts and emotions is exactly what can create destructive feedback. Facts are things that you can observe if you would film the person. For instance: “Getting angry” is not a fact. However: “Raising your voice” or “Turning red” are facts that you can bring up in a feedback conversation. Start with describing the behavior. And if you really have to explain your assumption, make it clear (eg “I notice this behavior of yours, and I assume that it means X. Is this a correct assumption?”).

Put yourself in their shoes: for which good reasons would they act the way they did?

Ask for permission to give the feedback. Accept that the person says “no”: sometimes it’s not the right time or we are just not in the mood for feedback, even if it is well crafted. A simple “Hey, would you have time at 3 pm this afternoon for a feedback conversation?” can help the receiver be mentally ready for it.

Choose a moment in the near future – the sooner the better. If the situation upsets you though, wait a few hours until the emotion settles.

And last but not least: Build trust with your team. Asking for feedback first (instead of waiting for it) is a great way to build vulnerability-based trust – especially at the top. Our next article will deal with this topic.

 

Key points include:

  • Framing the conversation
  • Stating the facts
  • Dialogue

 

Read the full article, Feedback is a gift… when you know how to unpack it, on AmbroseGrowth.com.