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Providing Feedback - A Leadership Skill Worth Developing

Most people and leaders are quite terrible at giving feedback and constructive criticism, which can have a serious effect on everything from team morale, retention, and a major effect on individual productivity. In truth, it’s a culture crusher.

The positive stuff is easy to deliver - you're doing great, play on – easy. To give feedback that actually challenges behaviours or performance is far more complex than people think, and is often not received well.

One side of the equation is the person receiving feedback. People are insecure, will avoid confrontation at any cost, and our brains are wired to switch on when we feel like we're being attacked. Any criticism CAN be seen as an attack, and thus needs to be delivered with great care and great planning.

Often feedback is either too direct – we haven’t planned, we've gone in too direct, and it hits too hard, or too weak - doesn't provide anything of value to avoid our own confrontation fears.

We are looking for that Goldilocks magic, just right in the middle. 

When you’re planning to deliver feedback, constructive criticism or something confrontational, it's worth remembering why you're doing it.

There are two broad reasons you'll give feedback. One is someone's done something wrong, and you are positioning to begin the process of angling them out of the business, or to challenge behaviour in a way that makes the situation no longer viable. The second is the vast majority, that you actually want to provide someone the support, information, and knowledge to make progress in the organisation.

If you providing feedback with the mindset ‘this person is a good citizen, they give good service to the business, and I want them to be a part of our future direction’, the outcomes will be much more valuable.

Here is a basic approach – ‘you are fantastic at these 1, 2 and 3 things, no one questions that, everyone loves working with you, loves your work ethic etc. There's one issue that I'd like to raise, because I think improving on this will provide huge steps in your career, and here's how I'm going to help you implement it.’

Someone receiving feedback saying you're doing very well, you're well regarded, but there's a couple of things that we need to talk about, will IMMEDIATELY lower the anxiety, and fear of confrontation dissipates. 

This is facilitated by approaching with goodwill, and being intelligent about how we position the conversation. If you want this person in the business long term – tell them – and make it clear that these minor (or occasionally major) behavioural or performance issues are holding them back from making that leap.

Don’t go in half-cocked, think about the individual you’re speaking with, and remember why you’re doing it. If you fluster and you’re not happy with the direction - stop, reset and ask to start again. 

Start doing these things and I guarantee* your feedback will be delivered and received much more effectively. 

*Not an actual guarantee, more a guideline. 

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