Lizette Warner, PhD
Think You're Good at Giving Feedback? Think Again.
Updated: Jan 24
One of the most important things leaders do is give feedback. Giving both praiseworthy and critical observations both have their dilemmas. Praiseworthy feedback that lacks substance and authenticity, smacks of shallow platitudes. Critical feedback could cost you respect, cooperation and loss of time and energy in running damage control to right the situation.
What is Feedback?
In its essence feedback is information shared back to the source. Take the case of an electronic feedback loop. These feedback loops are designed to control the output of devices such as amplifiers. All or some portion of the output is fed back to the input to affect future output levels. In general this feedback can be used to control the output at a desired level. Decisions can be made to amplify, or not so as not to exceed safety capacity.
In the workplace feedback is generally given with a purpose such as to correct a behavior, to praise or to answer a request of feedback. In stark contrast to electronic feedback loops, humans have a spectrum of interpretation of the feedback as well as a wide spectrum of abilities in providing feedback, which means you could consider how you want to deliver the feedback so that it yields the greatest impact.
Two techniques to consider
There are two techniques I'll present for your consideration which may help you elevate your feedback skills.
Prior to giving feedback consider checking your mindset. What one word shapes your feedback? Is it critical? Constructive? Praiseworthy? What would be different about you if your mindset was centered around feedback as an opportunity for growth?
When feedback is shaped as an opportunity for growth it has less of a negative impact than if we announce we have some critical feedback. Critical feedback suggests you did something wrong and there is something to fix. While this may be true, it also triggers a reaction towards the status quo and digging in your heels where you currently are because change is uncomfortable. Telling someone you have critical feedback doesn’t invite them towards growth. An opportunity for growth on the other hand suggests there is room to expand and invites someone to gently consider what a shift might open up for them.
Here’s the second thing an opportunity for growth does, it allows you to frame your feedback in the positive and permits you to remain detached to it while at the same time inviting the other person to consider it.
Let’s talk about magic, the magic ratio that is. Depending on who you reference the magic ratio is either four to one or five to one, positive to negative interactions. Meaning that for each negative encounter, five positive ones are needed to counterbalance the effect of the negative. This is the case in teams, meetings, relationships, and any interactions you encounter.
In terms of techniques on how to use this principle, the recommendation would be to incorporate this magic ratio as part of your feedback routine. The thing is that if you incorporate the mindset of providing an opportunity for growth in a positive frame, you can avoid having to incorporate the magic ratio. Food for thought!
The Coaching Nugget
Resources for you
These are simply a few considerations but if you are interested in accessing deeper wisdom then I’ll encourage you to explore my programs here. Coaching was something I did as part of my leadership role and I loved the results and the process so much I chose to advance my education / certification with the International Coaching Federation. That is the story of how I became a coach. Now I coach and partner with busy professionals to help them skyrocket into their authentic best.
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