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Power-up Performance – Session #2: Delivering Feedback that Inspires Behavior Changes – Webinar Recap

December 20, 2019 • Tal Valler

During our recent webinar session with Organizational Psychologist and Executive Coach Dr. Eyal Ronen, we focused on delivering feedback that inspires real behavioral changes. 

If you would like to watch a recording of the webinar, you can click here.

Below is a summary of that discussion.


 

Sources of feedback

A crucial, requisite element of success in any field, is feedback. To ensure we are properly zoned-in on our targets, or, conversely, need to abandon them in favor of improved ones will typically involve collecting or receiving feedback.

So what sources provide us with feedback?

The first, and most obvious one is other people.

A boss will tell you how you are coping with certain tasks; he or she can also indicate how close you are to reaching specific goals. Your peers can comment on your performance (‘you’ve been killing it lately!) and on your personal conduct (‘you curse too much!’). Clients can finish calls by saying ‘OK, you really covered all bases’ or by commenting ‘I feel like this call didn’t live up to what I expected’. Vendors will tell you, “You know, we love working with you. You’re one of our favorite clients. We love this partnership that we have.” In less fortunate instances they can tell you that “You’re great working with, but at the same time, you’re pushing us too much on prices, which doesn’t allow us to give you the best service’.

Additionally, your competitors will provide you with feedback, even if it is delivered indirectly. A competitor’s website that has begun ‘burrowing’ some of your core messages, is a form of feedback you must address. Being that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that constitutes as positive feedback… By keeping a close eye on your competitors, you will be collecting inadvertent feedback regarding your own performance and status.

So, besides people, what other sources of feedback are out there?

Social-media will provide you with clear-cut, unfiltered reactions. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are set up in a way that allow for a binary, non-nuanced (sometimes preferable) feedback approach. Someone will either like or dislike your post.

Internal organizational systems are great sources of feedback as well. Sales -professionals  look at their Sales Management System dashboard and see how much they have sold; by doing so, they gain direct feedback as to how well they are performing in the process.

Mission critical: Creating clarity

The key to effective, behavior-altering feedback is clarity. When delivering feedback, managers aim to change team members’ habits, have them adopt new approaches and improve their performance. However, they can only hope to see results if they deliver what they want changed in a clear fashion.

Unfortunately, managers tend to think they are far clearer than they actually are. It is not uncommon for managers to finish a team meeting feeling like they laid out their expectations in a clear fashion, only to have employees come back and comment on how vague their superior was in explaining what they are expected to do.

to ensure clarity, you need to talk about things all the time. Writing memos is not enough. Managers aiming to have employees behave and perform certain ways must conduct a conversation regarding what they expect of them. If they desire a specific course of action or approach to be adopted, managers need to tell their team-members what the best way to do things is. Team-leaders need to engage in conversations about best practices, and cannot be shy about telling employees what their expectations are.

A lack of clarity can sabotage feedback provided to managers by their employees, as well.

When soliciting feedback from team members, managers often find it hard to find anyone willing to criticize them. Fearing negative repercussions, employees will resort to shallow comments and platitudes. Instead of explicitly asking employees for positive and negative, managers should phrase their request like this: What would you like me to do more of, less of or differently? This way, employees are more likely not be intimated or feel threatened by their superior’s demand, and will almost certainly provide insightful and useful  feedback.

 

Delivering positive feedback effectively

If you are constantly showered with praise, chances are that you will quickly become desensitized to it. A CEO whom walks down the halls everyday telling his workers how great of a job they are doing may sound refreshing, but it will more than likely not result in improved business results.

Before it is handed out, it is important to realize that positive feedback has an ultimate goal; driving those whom receive it toward continuing and expanding what they have achieved.

For it to be effective, positive feedback should be delivered in the form of commending specific actions, not just a general ‘you are doing a great job!’. Highlighting an area an employee excelled at, and then explaining, preferably in detail, how it contributes to the company’s bottom line will go a long way in motivating said employee toward reaching additional goals.

How to deliver negative feedback: The Four Step Approach

When delivering negative feedback, most of us naturally resort to the following pattern:

To soften the eventual blow, we start off by highlighting the subject of our feedback’s positive aspects. In the case of an employee, we note his or her efforts and work ethic, or maybe add that we have noticed he or she have improved certain weak areas.

Then, we continue on to what really led us to be conducting this conversation- criticizing the employee’s weak points.

Once we commence our critique, we try and finish the conversation on a more positive note, by expressing our belief in our subject’s ability to improve, and maybe throw in a compliment or two.

Despite it being the default method for delivering feedback, this approach, widely known as the Feedback Sandwich, has a highly limited effect. When employees meet with their managers to have their work reviewed, no number of positive prefaces will have them focusing on anything but the negative parts. Knowing the criticism is around the corner, employees will block out the prologue and epilogue, and focus solely on the middle.

Therefore, we offer a new approach toward delivering negative feedback – The Four Step Approach. This method requires more planning and effort, but will ultimately prove to be far more impactful.

Here is a breakdown of each step:

Step 1- Preparation

It is crucial managers know exactly what they want to relay to their employee. If you are about to deliver a pretty strong negative message to an employee, you really need to think hard about how you intended to do it.
An effective way to properly formulate a critique is to zone-in on the desired outcome; what is that you- as a manger, want to see happen as a result of your employee responding to your feedback? This will also help you identify what to leave out of your critique as well.

Taking notes is highly recommended as well. Improvising may seem like a more natural way of doing things, but it can lead to you straying off course and missing crucial points that you intended on bringing up.

Then, think about where you want to deliver this feedback. It is highly recommended that negative feedback should be delivered somewhere private.

It is important to plan when you intend to deliver negative feedback, as well. If delivered early during a work day, the employee will have a chance to change his or her behavior that day. Conversely, if you deliver criticism at the end of the day, the employee will go home and reflect on what he or she have done. Both have upsides and disadvantages, so it is imperative to choose appropriately. Make sure to gauge the employee’s temperature before you criticize him or her; if you were just about to deliver negative feedback and he or she just finished a heated argument with a colleague, it would be advisable to push it off until he or she had some time to cool off.

Lastly, avoid distractions. Put your cellphone aside. Try to create an environment where you can sit quietly and talk about things, one that is devoid of external noise and commotion.

Step 2- Conduct an IDEA-based conversation

Developed based on human psychology principles, the following model offers a very effective, nuanced approach towards conducting the actual negative feedback conversation:

  • Begin with an Introduction- start off by telling your employee how you Be genuine. Tell them how you’re feeling right now, mostly about this conversation. If you find that you are nervous – feel free to share those feelings with your team member. In a way, you will be putting yourself on the same side of the table with them. This tends to defuse built-up tension typical to these meetings
  • Be Descriptive- Tell your employee what happened. What is the specific behavior that you noticed, heard or saw him or her doing? If you caught him or her chastising a peer, you can say the following: ‘I heard by the water cooler that you were making some pretty negative comments to one of your colleagues’.
  • Explain how the employee’s actions affected you and your team– continuing the example mentioned above, you can explain that ‘these kinds of remarks create a really negative environment. I know that the person you were speaking with really shut down and wasn’t able to continue the conversation with you’.
  • Describe the course of Action you would like the employee to take- Be firm (but not rigid) when dictating what you would like the employee to do: ‘What I’d like to see is that you apologize, but I’m open to other suggestions.’

Step 3- Close the conversation

Your first order of business at this stage would be ensuring you delivered your message clearly. The most effective way of figuring out whether your message was conveyed completely is to ask the employee to repeat what his or her key-takeaways were. Once they recite them, you will gauge exactly how well you delivered your criticism

Additionally, make sure to pay attention to your employee’s emotional state as he or she leave the meeting. Is he or she extremely upset?  Did he or her seem particularly nervous? Did he or she seem motivated to change? Look at how they are feeling. This may provide insight as to whether you were too harsh in delivering your feedback.

Lastly, develop a follow-up plan.

 

Step 4- Follow up

A follow-up is only effective if you, well, follow up. If you instructed your employee to email you two weeks after the meeting, and at the end of that period you have yet  to receive it – ask him or her why this has happened.

Additionally, if you notice positive change, mention it.

Lastly, make sure to praise effort. Offering tangible change takes time, and depending on the job, can be difficult to highlight. But even in roles that prioritizes results, make sure to commend the employee if he or she took the appropriate steps toward improving the areas you requested they do.

Best practices and conclusion

Delivering negative feedback is not easy- both for an employee who is be confronted with his or her shortcomings, and for you, as a manager who has to deliver it. When you get around to doing it – make sure the feedback is brief. Try to sound and look collaborative; you will always care about your team members’ performance because it reflects on you as a manager. Make sure the employee you are critiquing feels like you both are on the same team.

Own your criticism by using I statements. Refrain from saying ‘you were seen doing A’. Instead, opt for ‘I noticed that you did A’. Focus on how the employee’s actions made you (as a manager) feel, instead of what he or she did. This alleviates employees’ sense of guilt and helps them feel like they aren’t being attacked.

Most importantly, prepare; using the IDEA method allows you, as a manager, to show up to the meeting relaxed and cool-headed.

In the next installment in our Power-Performance series, we focused on ways to increase employee motivation. If you would like to view a recording of that session, click here.

 

About Gameffective

Gameffective is an Employee-Centric Performance Management Platform – the “fitness tracker” for the Connected Workforce of the Future.  Gameffective empowers employees to boost their work performance through hyper-personalised goals, real time tracking and data-driven feedback and coaching. Deployed with the world’s leading organizations Gameffective helps managers drive up employee value day by day. To find out how Gameffective can help transform your organization go to www.gameffective.com or book a live demo.    

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