How to give more powerful feedback and enable lasting change

One of the daily challenges for people in today’s busy workplaces is how to give more powerful leadership feedback in a way that will be heard, understood and will lead to lasting change.

You may have something important that you want to say to a manager, a direct report, a peer, a customer, or other significant person in your life (perhaps even outside of work). But for a variety of reasons, the conversation never quite happens and the message is never delivered, so nothing really changes and you go on feeling that there’s something that you need to say but you can’t quite put it into words.

Why do we not give this feedback when the moment arises? A fear of it resulting in an emotional reaction perhaps? A concern that we won’t be able to overcome our own emotions in delivering the message objectively or fairly? That our well-intended comment might be misunderstood by the receiver or that we might scramble the message inadvertently? Are we worried that we may come across as patronising, judgemental or rude?

Whatever the reason, there are some well-established techniques for delivering feedback strongly, fairly and powerfully in a way which will make a lasting difference – our top tips on how to give more powerful feedback are as follows:

1. Focus on behaviour and be specific

Feedback should be timed to be as close as possible to the event, so that both parties have the clearest possible memory of the event. Focus on behaviour rather than making it personal and be really specific rather than making general comments. This all speaks to being well prepared before having the conversation.

2. Keep a focus on the positive

Think about the receiver’s strengths before giving the feedback and how they were using their strengths…were their strengths being used in a balanced way or perhaps tripping into ‘overdrive’, where their behaviour was were having unintended consequences? Linking your feedback to strengths can feel more empowering as strengths are positive characteristics that when used well, can be a great asset.

3. Secure commitment by focusing on action

Ask coaching questions that will help the person receiving feedback figure out some options that they could consider in future. Ask them what might get in the way of their success and how they might use their strengths to overcome any such challenges. Then if appropriate, ask for a commitment, time-bound and action-based, that will lead to a change in behaviour.

4. Nurture and notice the change

Be sure to reinforce the changes you want to see by noticing and mentioning when you’ve seen a shift, linking this to strengths to communicate the value that these have brought.
So go on, give someone the gift of feedback and see what a lasting difference it can make.

Paul Brewerton, Joint Managing Director, Strengths Partnership.

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