How comfortable are you giving feedback? And how effective is the feedback that you are giving?
Few leaders really enjoy giving feedback, particularly when it’s about corrective or ‘negative’ feedback. Many people in fact hate giving negative feedback, some to the extent that they avoid it at all costs.
And whilst this is certainly not a productive behavior, it’s understandable. Do you like to receive recognition, get praised, and hear what a great job you have just done? Of course you do. In comparison, how much do you enjoy to hear from your boss that he/she is not satisfied with your project performance, that people tell you they didn’t like your presentation, or that your customer is not convinced about your proposal?
Whether you were working on this project, prepared this presentation or the negotiation with the customer, you have probably done your best. You might have even thought that you did quite a great job, until someone told you otherwise. This feel too good, does it?
I don’t know anyone who does not enjoy getting ‘positive’ feedback, and I know no one who does not feel at least somewhat uncomfortable when receiving ‘negative’ feedback. So it’s perfectly understandable when even experienced leaders dislike giving feedback concerning undesired or unproductive behaviors. Particularly when they are empathic leaders with a people focus, they feel bad about making others feel uncomfortable.
But in case you think that’s quite a nice trait, bear in mind that there is one thing that is infinitely worse than negative feedback, and that’s no feedback at all!
When employees do not receive feedback about how they are doing, they will probably continue what they are doing, even when this is not good enough. People usually act with best intentions and to the best of their abilities, and if they don’t get feedback, they will assume that what they are doing is alright. So why change? Without feedback, there will be no improvement. Simple as that.
“One thing that people are never good at is seeing themselves as other people see them” —Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman Alphabet Inc (formerly named Google)
Feedback is essential for development in both personal and professional life. The Art of Giving Effective Feedback is a key leadership skill which you need to master. If you don’t, your organization will fail already in its initial steps towards a high performance culture that attracts top talent and retains high performers.
Working mostly in Asia, I am often told that feedback is a ‘Western’ concept which is just not appropriate in Asia because it does not fit in the culture. In Thailand, for instance, there is an attitude called krengjai. Krengjai cannot be really translated. It’s an attitude that values not disturbing others, and consequently leads to avoiding confrontations, or make others feel bad. Consequently, giving and receiving feedback is not common in Thai culture. However, successful Asian leaders, including Thais, have told me that straightforward feedback is essential for improvement, also in very indirect Asian cultures that strive for harmony.
Remember: without feedback people don’t know how they’re doing. It’s like steering a ship on the ocean in a starless night without compass. How would you feel as the captain?
I strongly encourage you to establish a feedback culture in your organization in which giving and receiving constructive feedback becomes a daily habit. When it’s ‘normal’ to get feedback on a regular basis, people will feel increasingly comfortable and ready to accept the feedback, even when it’s not always pleasant in the first place. Receiving feedback is an opportunity to improve!
If you would like to know more, I will be happy to send you my article “The Art of Giving Effective Feedback”. This short guide contains thirteen valuable tips that can help you improve your feedback skills significantly, and set yourself and your organization up for success. Just drop me an email and you’ll have the complementary pdf version in your mail within 24 hours: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
Gerrit Pelzer is a Leadership Advisor & Executive Coach who helps leaders create better results through people. If you would like a personal consultation on how you can improve individual and organizational performance contact him now:
phone: +66-2 107 2025