Learning to master feedback is every first-time manager’s bogeyman. It’s also an issue for many experienced managers. Experienced doesn’t mean good.
We avoid it, dilute it, or (metaphorically) beat people over the head with it.
We think that people don’t want to be told what they’re doing wrong. Or right.
Practice Is Critical
Delivering effective, constructive and positive feedback is a learned discipline. You need to understand the building blocks of an effective feedback conversation. You need to understand how to configure these building blocks. And then, you need to practice putting them together and conducting these conversations.
You will screw up.
You will mismanage some of these discussions. Some people are experts at helping you mismanage these discussions. The best of them will turn the conversation into a critique of your management ineffectiveness.
You need to learn not only to deliver the discussions but to manage the conversations.
The Upside of Mastering Feedback
Get feedback right, and this is one of the most potent performance-promoting tools in your manager’s toolkit. Ken Blanchard calls feedback, “The breakfast of champions.”
Your effective use of feedback will support the development of your team members. It will help you eliminate performance problems. Heck, it will help you realize great performance.
A healthy feedback culture promotes high-quality dialog on sticky issues across your team.
Why It’s So Challenging
We assume our team members don’t want feedback. We don’t have good role models for this skill-set. Many of us have yet to experience a manager who is any good at delivering feedback.
We fear confrontation. We fear not being liked. We don’t know how to start the conversation.
The reality is your team members want feedback on how to improve as professionals—at least the good ones do.
You can break the chain of lousy role models by opting to master this skill.
A properly developed and managed feedback discussion is not about confrontation. It’s a dialog about specific, business-focused behavioral issues.
Being liked isn’t a necessity for being a successful manager or leader. However, master the art and science of delivering effective, constructive feedback and you will be respected.
Get it wrong, and you’re just another bumbling manager people tolerate because they need a job. Learn to master feedback—put in the time and get over your fear of making mistakes, and you stand a chance of moving the performance needle and your career in the right direction.
Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.