How to give great feedback? Try this four-step method

Getting feedback is hard. Giving feedback is even harder. Here’s how to do it properly and empower your team.

Michelle Tillis Lederman: I love thinking about leveraging the laws of likability when giving feedback. Because feedback is only effective if somebody can receive it. So you want to present feedback, I say, on a silver platter and not on a garbage can lid. You have to remember it’s not about your communication style, It’s about theirs. The best way to develop your people is to flex to them, to empower them, to adapt your style to what they need. That’s a manager. That’s a leader. That’s a coach. So if they’re somebody who really likes direct feedback even if it’s something you’re not comfortable with they will respect and be able to take it in better if you can just get to the point. If you’re somebody who’s really direct and they need a little bit more tact and diplomacy, then you’re going to need to massage your messaging so, again, it can be heard.

There’s a correlation between the speed at which somebody receives that feedback and the importance that they place on it. When you delay feedback, you delay the value you’re placing on it. So, immediacy is important. Now, not in the exact moment; let them have a moment to breathe. But don’t wait more than a day, if you can, if it’s really crucial. You had that weekly meeting; sometimes it will fade from your memory by that point. It becomes less important to you and to them. So make sure you give that feedback quickly and specifically. Don’t just say, 'Oh, I think it went well.' Tell them why you thought it went well. What specifically they did that you thought went well. And then challenge them with the next opportunity. Give them something to keep growing from.

So if you think about the most important law of likability it’s the law of curiosity. And I have a model that you can use to walk through any challenging or feedback conversation that will leverage these laws of likability, starting with curiosity. Curiosity creates connections and connection is important in these conversations because when you are receiving feedback you’re considering your source. And when you don’t value, trust or like source then you might not be really willing to take that information in. 

So the model has four parts: ask, elaborate, empower, collaborate. 'Ask' is going to leverage that law of curiosity. Start with a question and make sure that question is open-ended. It’s not, you know: 'Do you think that went well?' Which is implying that you don’t think that went well. Instead, you ask: 'How do you think it went? What do you think went well? What do you think could have gone better?' And get them talking. That’s the key to opening up a feedback conversation, it’s to get the information from them. It actually makes it easier on you as a manager because you see where they’re at, what they already know. They’re bringing information in the room and you can determine, 'Oh, we’re about on the same page,' or 'We have completely different views of the situation.' And that will help kind of tweak the information that you need to bring into the room.

Oftentimes people are much harder on themselves than you will ever be on them. When you ask, the next law of likability is the most important thing: you have to listen. So, listen for the understanding, listen for the concern, listen for a different view or interpretation of the situation. Because we know we’re coming in with a belief about what happened. We need to try to check that assumption at the door and listen for other possibilities, other narratives. 

All right, so we’ve asked, we’ve listened. Now it’s your turn as the manager. Ask, elaborate. This is your chance to add information that you might have heard collected from other sources. Be additive. Don’t say, 'Well I heard...' Instead, you’ll say, 'Additionally, I received information from so and so, and this and that,' and you’re bringing in that information: 'My perspective of...' and it could be elevating them. Feedback isn’t always negative. You don’t have to brace them and you don’t have to brace yourself. Feedback is simply information, and it’s information that you want to make somebody able to use and put into action. 

So that is the first half of the conversation. Before you move on to the second half what I want you to think about are root causes. What are the root causes and the reasons that it went so well? What are the root causes and the reasons that it didn’t to so well? Is there something that’s underlying that can help us in the second half of this conversation where we’re looking for the solutions? Did you not have training? Did you not have authority? Did you not have budget? What happened? Let’s evaluate that before we move on.

Now, you’re going to throw it back to the other person. You’re going to empower them. Get them to throw the ideas out of what they think the next step should be. So, 'What would you do differently next time?' or 'How do you think we can move forward from here?' are great questions to start the empower phase. 

As we empower them and bring those ideas you have to be very careful at that last stage of the conversation where you’re collaborating, because as the manager, as the leader, when you put your idea out there they’re just going to defer. So build off of their ideas: 'I love that. I think in addition you could also do this or maybe even switch the order. What do you think?' The collaboration isn’t a dictation. The collaboration is the exchange. Now another key thing that can happen in that last phase of the feedback, especially when things might not have gone the way that you wanted, is to leverage the law of similarity. By sharing an experience that you went through that might be similar to what they’re experiencing, you create a teachable moment. You build trust. When you’re vulnerable with your employees you actually increase your credibility. So remember vulnerability is not about weakness. It’s about openness. So share the story of how when things didn’t go so well for you what you did, what you learned, how it went and let them know it’s okay. We all make mistakes and we can still get to the positions that you’re in. And the last thing to remember is the law of likability called mood memory. Because if they walk away from that conversation not feeling good, they’re going to want to throw out all of the information that they’ve received. So mood memory is that people remember more how you make them feel than anything that you said. So ensure that you are being action oriented; feedback is not about berating somebody or punishing. You focus on the past to make a plan for the future. That’s feedback.

Want to motivate your team? Learn to give useful feedback. "Likability leadership expert" Michelle Tillis Lederman explains her four-step method that can make feedback conversations go smoothly and funnel toward growth. The steps are: ask, elaborate, empower, and collaborate, and Tillis Lederman explains each thoroughly in this video, as well as adding useful information about timing, tone, checking your biases, and staying action-oriented. "Feedback is not about berating somebody or punishing. You focus on the past to make a plan for the future. That’s feedback," says Lederman. Getting feedback is hard. Giving feedback can be even harder. Here’s how to do it properly and empower your team. Michelle Tillis Lederman's new books are Nail the Interview, Land the Job and The 11 Laws of Likability.

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