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Useful Feedback Gets Delivered

Let's say that you want to give your direct report some feedback on the meeting they just ran. You have the idea of the behavior you want to address in your head (because you know useful feedback focuses on behavior) -- and let's pretend you want to address how your direct report rushed through the agenda slide and left the rest of the team confused about what was being covered. That's the green square in the head on the left, below.

But because of the challenges you experience in delivering feedback, what comes out of your head is more like "you weren't very good at covering the agenda" -- not quite what you were thinking of in your head. (By the way, this is normal.)

And because of the challenges the other person experiences in receiving feedback (getting defensive, feeling the need to justify, wanting to interrupt, whatever) what actually ends up in their head is "your agenda slide was messy" -- a red circle.

If you end the conversation by saying, "Do you understand what I mean by this?" the other person is most likely going to say yes. Because they do believe they understand you.

And this is where feedback ends in most situations. We say something, we assume it was heard, understood, or processed, and then we go different ways. And then, the next time that direct report covers the agenda in the meeting, the slide is beautiful, but they're still rushing. Hmmmm.

The second way to make feedback useful (out of the eight ways listed here), is to make sure it gets delivered. And the best way to make sure the green square in your head is the green square in the other person's head is to make sure the green square comes out of their mouth.

You can do this in a bunch of ways, but they all involve asking questions. Things like:

  • "What are you taking away from this conversation?"

  • "What will you do differently next time?"

  • "What's your understanding of what we just talked about?"

  • "What's your first step?"

Ask and answer questions until you hear the feedback you've shared come out of their mouths. And then ask them to recap it for you in an email. (Because why should you be the one tracking all the developmental feedback for your employees? Aren't they at least in part responsible for their own growth and development...?)

For more tips on feedback or to schedule a training for your team, grab some time with me!

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