• Jon Mechan

Giving and Receiving Feedback

As a leader, whether you’re the CEO of a multi-national company or a first-time manager, you will need to be able to give feedback to your teams. You’ll also have to receive it - sometimes even if you don’t want it!


Giving

There’s a ton of literature out there about how to give effective feedback - personally I keep it super simple, using the “BIG” approach.

  • Behaviour - describe the specific behaviour that you observed. What did the person say or do - or not do?

  • Impact - state the impact of the behaviour on you, others, the team, themselves

  • Going forward - request the improved behaviour you’d like to see the person demonstrate going forward. Determine how you will support and follow up on this.

You can also take a more coaching approach, and look at the impact together - “When you did X, what do you think the rest of the team felt about it?”


It’s important to address the behaviour and not the person. Making the feedback personal will only create defensiveness and is more likely to entrench them in their position.


Note that this method can be used for positive reinforcement as well - “When you presented so clearly in that meeting the other day the customers responded really well. Please continue to do that going forward!”


In fact, make sure that you don’t use feedback only in a negative context - give positive feedback to your team too. Positive recognition can go a really long way to help engender psychological safety and improve motivation and retention.

 

You’ll also want to ensure that feedback delivery is timely - i.e. as soon after the event as possible. If you’re giving feedback as part of an appraisal or annual review, then you should focus on broader patterns of behaviour, rather than specific incidents (although you may wish to use illustrative examples). Individual incidents should be handled at the time rather than waiting for a perioding review.

 

Giving and Receiving...

Receiving

In a leadership role you will get lots of both direct and indirect feedback. The important thing to remember is that these are data points - you don’t necessarily want to change what you do based on every single thing that you hear.


However, you will want to keep an eye out for weak signals - for example, you might have a valued high-performing team member who seems a little demotivated or quieter than usual lately. That’s a form of indirect feedback that you should look out for and try to address. In a case like that, if you wait for them to raise something as a problem, or worse, tell you they’re leaving for another company, it could be too late to do anything meaningful about it.


My golden rule when receiving feedback - and this might be a bit controversial - is don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from. The more senior your role the more you’ll have to have courage in your own convictions.


That said, it is important to ask for feedback, and remain open to receiving it - either directly or through surveys, 360 mechanisms, etc., - and consider whether you want to make adjustments based on that. It’s easy to get defensive but there’s no harm in taking the feedback and considering what actions you might take based on it.


I try to take a ‘good faith’ approach - i.e. I assume that those giving the feedback are doing so in good faith, and so there’s something there to look into, otherwise they wouldn’t have mentioned it.


So, to follow my own advice, give me some feedback - what do you think about this (or any other of my articles)? Send me an email at hello@jonmechan.com.


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