"People's minds are changed through observation and not through argument." — Will Rogers
Nobody likes it: delivering critical feedback or correction.
While as a rule of thumb, we want to spend more of our time building positivity, focusing on strengthening the positive behaviors we do want in our team through acknowledgment, alignment and other tools, still there are times that we have to give correction. (In fact, experts say that aiming for a 5:1 ratio of positive feedback (or acknowledgment) to negative feedback helps build necessary connection, trust and openness to receiving critical feedback.)
Rather than criticism, providing feedback on less-skillful behavior can actually be an extremely important learning tool if it's done intentionally. In fact, whether you are giving positive or critical feedback, focus on the concrete behavior that's at issue as well as the impact.
By focusing on the behavior, instead someone's personality characteristics, you give people specific information about is and isn't working behaviorally, and can stay away from less-skillful blaming language that can increase defensiveness.
Example: "I know we've all been working so hard lately and we're all feeling a bit run down. I really appreciate all the extra effort you've put into this project."
2) Name the behavior that isn't working, and the impact: Use this template to help: "When (name specific behavior), then (name the impact on them, you, the team, or the organization)."
Example: "When you miss our agreed-upon deadlines with no warning, it backs things up for me and everyone else."
3) Take responsibility for your own part of the problem: Rarely do problems exist in isolation: what is the 2% of the problem that belongs to you?
Example: "I realize I wasn't clear enough in letting you know this was a hard-stop deadline."
4) Make a request: state what the behavior is you'd like to see instead. Why is it important to resolve this issue?
Example: "We all need to stay accountable to our timelines, and check in with each other if we need to adjust or amend."
4) Invite their participation: listen, offer yourself as a resource, and see how you can harness both of your intelligences to solve the problem.
Example: "What do you think? What ideas do you have for us staying better on track with our deadlines? What do you need from me?"
5) Look for what you both can align around, and come to shared understanding of your new agreement, including how you will hold accountability: what will you do, when will you do it, and how will you know it's happening or not.
Example: "So, we both agree to check in with each other once a day when we are under tight deadlines to be sure we are on track."
Try these steps when you have difficult or corrective feedback to provide someone and see what shifts in your working relationships.
In the comments below, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. Let me know:
1) What's some critical feedback you've had to give recently? What worked? What didn't?
2) Which of these steps might be most helpful to you in giving critical feedback?