Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! As crucial as feedback is, it is very easy to take the wrong approach and unintentionally sabotage growth and productivity. In fact, some of the most popular tools leaders are taught to use when giving feedback are destructive! In today’s podcast, we will discuss four mistakes leaders make when giving feedback and how you can correct them.
How NOT to give Feedback
1. The Feedback Sandwich
Experts refer to this as cushioning your feedback by starting and ending with a compliment. Many leaders have been taught that this is the best way to give feedback because it feels friendly and kind. This approach actually causes a lot of damage between leaders and their teams. Leaders who lean on this approach find themselves giving positive feedback they don’t really mean to soften the blow of their constructive criticism. Instead of improving your relationship, this approach causes employees to question any positive feedback you give them. Remember, firm, direct, and consistent is the approach. Not emotional and not manipulative. Feedback is a gift and how they respond is none of your business.
Q: Were you taught to use the feedback sandwich? What do you think about this perspective? What do you think leaders should do instead? How do you ensure team members feel valued when giving corrective feedback?
2. Labeling Your Team
Leaders label their team, either in their heads or worse, out loud, as arrogant, close-minded, stupid, clueless, hypocritical, immature, lazy, etc. Labeling people causes you to be closed-minded and limit your circle to people who think like you. As a leader, your job is to encourage your team to share their thoughts and ideas for the greater good. When your employee feels labeled, they will stop asking questions or making their opinions known for fear of being thought of as wrong or stupid. Re-frame your position to look at the situation from a different perspective and create growth opportunities.
Q: Have you ever felt labeled by a leader? Describe your experience. How did it affect your work? Your relationship with the team?
3. Putting off Feedback
If you wait too long to give feedback, it becomes less meaningful and effective. When feedback comes immediately, it helps resolve problems quickly. The sooner they get feedback, the faster they can make changes and improve future performance.
Don’t wait until an employee’s performance is well below expectations before you address it. Someone who has to find their way out of a substantial hole will feel more overwhelmed and hopeless than someone who receives feedback as soon as their performance slips.
Q: Why do you think leaders put off feedback? What are some of the unintended consequences of putting off feedback? Describe a time when a leader put off giving you feedback. What impact did it have when they finally expressed what they saw?
4. Focusing only on corrective feedback
So many managers are so focused on putting out fires that they only give feedback when they see something going wrong. Without positive feedback, employees feel like their good work goes unnoticed. In turn, this leads to low morale. A short piece of specific, heartfelt feedback will show your employees that you see their efforts and are in their corner. Once people know you are their advocate, it will also make giving criticism less stressful and more effective.
Q: Do you find it harder to give positive feedback or corrective feedback? Why? Describe a time when someone gave you both constructive and positive feedback. How did their approach impact your work? How did it compare to when you only received one or the other?
If you find it hard to remember to give positive feedback, try giving yourself a tactile or visual reminder. In the past, I have put three silver fifty-cent pieces in my right pocket. Every time I delivered positive feedback, I moved one coin to the other pocket. By the end of the day, all three coins should be in your left pocket! This is an excellent reminder because you can feel the coins whenever you put your hand in your pocket, so they serve as a reminder to give feedback. You could also put three sticky notes on the right side of your desk or computer monitor. Move one note to the right side every time you give positive feedback.
How have you labeled your team in the past? Write down any labels, fair or unfair, for each person on your team. Consider the evidence. Where have you unjustly judged people? Are there any old labels that are no longer true? Do you need to apologize for any past conversations or repair any of those relationships? Do whatever you need to remove labels and give your team a fresh start.
Spend some time considering the content of this series on feedback. What changes have you made so far? What difference have you seen? What barriers do you face in giving your team feedback? What suggestions are you the most resistant to? Why?