Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.
What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: ABCDEF?
It is FEEDBACK
However, feedback is a double-edged sword.
A positive feedback creates encouragement, motivation, and empowerment within the team. Every good performance deserves to be appreciated and encouraged.
However, there are times when we need to give constructive and negative feedback also. A true critic ought to dwell upon imperfections rather than excellencies, to discover the concealed beauties of the creator, and communicate to the world such things as are worth their observation.
But this needs to be done very carefully as a wrongly worded feedback can degenerate into a cacophony of resentment, bitterness, and denial.
But the good news is there are ways in which negative feedback can be given positively resulting in a win-win situation for all.
And here is how it can be done.
Win the Trust
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
If your team trusts you, you have already won three-fourths of the battle. Trust acts as a soothing balm and where it exists, it ensures that any feedback is taken in an open, positive way.
A leader who has built a trust-based relationship with the team can never be misinterpreted, as his team knows that he has their best interests at heart, even if the feedback is negative.
Ask, Listen, Speak
“Why did God give me two ears and one mouth? So that I will hear more and talk less.”
Good leaders listen more and talk less. They start the conversation by asking the employee his views on the current situation. Most of the time, the employee is aware of the situation and would also know the “circumstances” which are preventing him from working as per the expectation.
Let it come from them and then offer solutions. It is always possible that the solution lies right within the problem.
Mind Your Words
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
Getting “personal” with the feedback is going to defeat the very purpose, instead, focus on the behavior. So instead of saying “You are disorganized”, say “I see, your workload is getting difficult to manage, Can we sit together to prioritize the same?”
The same message, conveyed in a different manner not only hits home but also prevent the destructive, never-ending self-denial conversation.
Recommend Specific Actions
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.”
Beating about the bush and conveying vague feedback from “thirty thousand feet above the ground” is a waste of time. If you something to say, be specific, to the point and recommend solid actions which can be quantified and implemented by the employee.
Most of the times, employees are caught off-guard while receiving negative feedback, it makes even more sense to make it measurable and doable.
Give “Real” Praise
“There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise.”
Mary Kay Ash
Employees are not dummies. They can easily see through if your praise is genuine or not. Again like the actions, the praise also needs to be specific. Mention specific areas where their work has impressed you and where they are doing a great job.
Recent studies have shown that sandwiching negative feedback between dollops of praises is not very effective. Keep the praise and the feedback separate.
Bringing it all together
Nobody likes to deliver bad news, however as leaders, this activity also sometimes comes in our ever growing bucket. More than the actual feedback, the way of communicating the same plays a very important role in the response and the impact.
Negative feedbacks can only deliver results if they are conveyed in an atmosphere of trust, empathy, and respect for the individual. They are a must and just cannot be avoided or pushed under the carpet.
As rightly observed by Hugh Prather
Negative feedback is better that none. I would rather have a man hate me than overlook me. As long as he hates me I make a difference.