9 Tips for Addressing the 'Feedback Fear Factor'

"I'd like to give you some feedback....".  Who else gets a shiver down their spine on hearing the dreaded 'F' word?

On the day that the country has given its feedback on how it sees its future with the EU, it seemed timely to look at our own tricky relationship with both giving and receiving feedback.  And to give you some top tips for making feedback part of your day to day...

So why the negativity and reluctance around feedback?  Intuitively we know that it's important.  To tell us how we're doing. To find out what works well.  To help us get better at things.

The fundamental problem is usually fear...  We fear failure.  We fear being told we're not good at something. And as feedback givers, we fear how we imagine the other person will react.  Anger... silence...tears...  No thanks! So we avoid it, we cringe when we're given it (even when its positive!), we give broad meaningless feedback to others ("Great job today!"), or we make a subtle hint about something, and hope its picked up.

But imagine the consequences if we don't ever give or receive feedback?  Mediocrity... Poor performance... Underachievement... Repeated failure.  Sound appealing?

We know that successful people have a thirst for feedback, invite it from others and offer it willingly.  It's what makes them successful.  So how can we change our own relationship with feedback, and make it part of what we do?

Here are some Top Tips to help you.

1. See feedback as a gift - Be grateful when you receive it, and be generous when you offer it.  How wonderful that we're willing to help each other improve!

2. Do it straight away - Give feedback while it's fresh in your mind and theirs.  Prevaricating will only increase your stress and worry, make them wonder why you've sat on it so long, and reduce the likelihood of you giving it at all.  Sound familiar?

3. Stick to facts - Describe what you observed.  What did you actually see them doing or hear them saying?  Avoid "I thought you were very aggressive towards Tom in that meeting" and choose instead "You raised your voice and repeatedly talked over Tom in that meeting".

4. Lose your Buts - Have you ever noticed the power of 'But' in a sentence?  "Emma, thank you so much for the work you have done on this project - you kept me informed regularly, you involved all the right people, but next time you need to be on time with your reports".  Wow.... All that positive feedback, and then 'But' comes along with its amazing ability to negate it all!  Be thoughtful with your feedback language, think about the message you want them to hear and how you want them to feel. Replace your 'Buts' with 'Ands'.

5. Be specific - Instead of the general "You did a great job on that report", give them specifics. "What I really liked about your report was..... What you could do even better next time is...."

6. Tell them what you do want - We often have a tendency to tell people what we don't want them to do. "Don't interrupt people". "Don't use your mobile phone in the office". "Don't be late again".  The trouble with this approach, is it focusses people on the very thing we don't want them to do!  The brain struggles to process a negative.  So help it out, and say what you do want. "Let others talk in meetings". "Keep your mobile phone switched off in the office". "Be on time from now on".  Oh, and make sure it's doable!

7. Give them the WIIFM - Help them see the "What's In It For Me?".  How will doing what you are suggesting really make a difference for them?  Why should they bother?

8. Be congruent - Giving great feedback is about so much more than words.  We've all had feedback we don't really believe, or that seems half hearted or sarcastic.  The words are saying one thing, the body language, tone of voice, eye contact or look on their face tells a completely different story.  To be frank, if you can't send the same message verbally, vocally and visually, you're better saying nothing at all.  Consider your real intention with your feedback.

9. Ask - Actively seek feedback yourself.  Scary I know, but show you're keen to learn and improve too.  Encourage others to do the same and create a culture of feedback.  The more you do it, the less scary it becomes - honest!

When done well, feedback is wonderful.  What else can have such a positive impact on someone's motivation, learning, performance and potential?

So be brave!  Give someone the gift of feedback today.