An old colleague called me the other day. He was having some trouble getting someone on his team to accept some feedback he was giving.
“I keep telling her that she needs to stop and build relationships with folks on the team. She is just so direct and to the point that no one wants to work with her. She is technically the most skilled person on the team but she doesn’t realize that it is ok if others do things differently. It is at the point that no one wants to work with her on anything. One person even told me,’She needs to approach her work with an attitude that everyone is doing their best and that we all have good intention. Sure she is really smart, but what good is that if no one wants to be around her.’”
My friend then said to me, “I even did the old feedback sandwich technique, where I give her a positive comment, and then give her the criticism, and followed this by what a good person she is.”
Ever been in a space like this? Where you are trying to give someone feedback but it is like you are talking to a wall. Or maybe the person seems open and friendly but you cannot move the conversation past your relationship.
Maybe you had someone try some technique on you like the CrapFeedback Sandwich where they build you up to tear you down and then try and save the day with some meaningless positivism that is more therapeutic for them than it is for you?
“Ok, just stop,” I told my friend. “Let’s talk about productive feedback and how really to have a productive conversation.”
Take This 1 Question Quiz on Productive Feedback
Here are three things to consider to make your feedback conversation more productive.
Become Biased for Action
Consider the Relationship
Appreciate what is Possible
Now put them in the proper order for effective feedback.
Did you find that you had an “aha” moment as you tried to figure out the order? Reflect on your thoughts for a moment.
Perhaps you find yourself saying that feedback is all about being Biased for Action. After all, the reason you are giving the person feedback is so that they can have the information they need to make the changes that others see are needed. You are not having a feedback conversation for your own health or to just hear yourself talk (although it does seem that way sometimes to some people).
According to James Flaherty who writes on effective coaching conversations these three conversations all need to happen if someone is going to change a behavior, but the order they happen in is critical. For example, if you do not have a firm enough foundational relationship, getting a person to act on feedback is futile. You could pay them all the compliments you can think of but when the criticism comes, they go immediately into a protective defensive posture.
From the list of three things to consider for productive feedback, let’s consider the most important of these three which is the relationship.
Consider the Relationship
In order for any feedback to resonate with the receiver, the relationship with the provider of the feedback is critical. Good interpersonal relationships have some core elements to them which are often taken for granted.
First, they are mutual. This means that both parties derive satisfaction from being together. This relationship cannot be forced. Even if we do not get to choose who we have on our team, or the boss we work for, we have to freely decide of our own will that we are going to be in the relationship.
Second, the reason the relationship exists is due to some foundational core commitments. The commitments we make to each other are critical because all relationships are going to have ambiguity and misunderstanding and without solid core commitments it is hard to maintain a relationship.
Third, the relationship must contain trust and compassion. For feedback to be absorbed by the receiver trust must be present. For trust to flourish compassion must be present. Having compassion means you are with me in my suffering. That you understand me and will not abandon me when I am down.
Next week we’ll dissect the remaining two factors that play a big role in productive feedback: Becoming Biased for Action and Appreciating what’s Possible. But until then, how do you think Considering the Relationship affects productive feedback? I’d love to hear your comments below.