When giving feedback we often believe we need to tell someone else how they should correct something or compliment them on doing something well.
In business, feedback is often another way of saying, ‘let me tell you how you can do that better‘.
Sometimes this is useful, but mostly it at best misses the point, and at worst raises defences preventing any change in behaviour.
When we take this approach we are sharing our judgement of a person’s behaviour, often mixed in with some advice.
- “What you need to do is practice your presentation skills.”
- “I think you did a wonderful sales presentation.”
- “You didn’t really make an impact in that meeting.”
A better way to give feedback is to be a mirror for the person. If we could see ourselves in the mirror, we could make our own mind up as to what we are going to change, if anything.
Getting feedback as if we are seeing ourselves, reduces the defensiveness which naturally arises when we are told that what we are doing should be done differently. Effective feedback done in this way is also the greatest gift we could give someone, allowing them to see for themselves how they are performing.
If you are giving me feedback as I would see myself in the mirror or if you had a video camera rolling, then there is nowhere to hide. Stripped of judgements and advice, there is nothing to dispute or defend against. I get to look at myself and decide whether what I see is ok, or if it needs to change.
The best feedback I ever got was a video of me on a presentation skills course in 1991. Watching the video permanently etched in my mind an image of what I looked like while presenting. It contains no advice nor judgement. To this day I carry that image with me whenever I walk into a public presentation. It informs how I present in many ways.
So what does feedback delivered in this way look like using the same examples above?
- “In your presentation you looked at your notes twenty-seven times and the whole presentation was 10 minutes.”
- “At the end of your presentation the CEO signed the order without asking a question.’
- “You did not say anything other than hello and goodbye in that meeting.”
We need to ask ourselves why we want to give feedback? If it is to help a person improve themselves then the most effective way to do it is to allow them to see themselves through our feedback.
Image source: http://bit.ly/17ZfGWL
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