Showing posts with label constructive feedback. Show all posts
Showing posts with label constructive feedback. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Group Intervention at Work

Several years ago I was supervising a team of ten people, and most of them got along well.

But over time, I picked up serious rumblings from four of them about “Rita,” one of the team members.

They had legitimate complaints about her performance related to lack of cooperation and sharing of information. They found her difficult to approach and talk to.

I contemplated talking with Rita myself, but that violated one of my deeply-held beliefs:

When you give constructive feedback, it should be from first-hand observation.
I had not seen these behaviors myself so I wasn’t comfortable addressing them with her.

Another option was to insist each person talk with Rita individually. I wasn’t sure how effective that would be, since emotions were running high by that point. And these four individuals did not possess expert feedback skills.

So I decided to do something radical.

I set up a group intervention.

Interventions are sometimes necessary when someone is in denial about an aspect of their behavior, and the opinion of just one person doesn’t get their attention or carry much weight.

An intervention brings together a group of people who care about that person’s future and are willing to speak the truth together. This has been done with positive impact for decades with alcoholics and drug addicts.

A skilled facilitator guides each participant in advance to write out the specific behaviors that have created a problem, including these components of constructive feedback:
1 – Describe the specific behavior.
2 – Share your reaction and feelings.
3 – Explain the impact on you or others.
4 – State what you need from this person.

A sample statement would be something like this:
When you [negative behavior], I feel [feeling] because [negative impact]. What I’d like you to do instead is [desired behavior].

I figured that I could follow the same process to get Rita’s attention and influence her future performance. She was a valued employee and I didn't want to lose her. I also wanted to teach the others how to give appropriate feedback.

First, I met with the four individuals as a group and explained what we were going to do. I gave them the four components to include in their feedback and required them to write down what they were going to say.

I then reviewed what they’d written and coached them on ways to word their message to be factual and non-judgmental.

Boy, were they nervous. They’d never done anything like this before, and they weren't sure how Rita would react. They were concerned she would feel we were ganging up on her.

I tried to reassure them that the outcome would be positive.

On the morning of the intervention, I met with Rita a few minutes before we were to gather. I explained to her that we were about to have a meeting that was just for her. I assured her that I cared a lot about her as a person and as an employee. I explained that some of her team members had concerns about her behavior and wanted to share those with her. And I said I’d be facilitating the process to make sure everything that was said would be appropriate.

I entered the room with Rita, and the others were already seated in chairs that I had arranged in a circle. Rita slid into one of the empty chairs, and I sat across from her, with the others on either side of us. I wanted to be able to see everyone, but especially Rita.

I opened by stating that we had come together because each person in the room had something to say to Rita, and they wanted to do it in a way that would be helpful to her and to them.

The team members took turns sharing their feedback, and Rita was given an opportunity to respond after each one. What ensued was a dialogue that clarified the real issues and led to agreements for future action.

At one point, another team member, “Kate” placed her notes beneath her chair and sighed. She realized that she had contributed to some of the problems. The blame didn’t lie exclusively with Rita. Kate shared responsibility for the problem. She actually apologized to Rita and everyone else for the part she had played to worsen the situation.

The entire group came together in ways I could not have predicted.

After that day, they became less afraid to address a minor issue head-on, before it grew into a big problem. They even encouraged each other to speak up in meetings.

Too often constructive feedback takes the form of criticism and blame, and it’s filled with emotion. That’s because we wait too long to speak up.

Follow this simple 4-step model the next time you need to address an issue with someone. You’ll find that you stay calmer and the other person will likely react less defensively.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Delivering Constructive Feedback Doesn’t Have to Be Painful

When someone says or does something that causes a problem for you, how do you handle it? If it’s a little thing, you’ll probably overlook it. After all, everyone makes mistakes. If what they’re doing continues to be an issue, though, you need to address it. But how?

There’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to give constructive feedback. It’s not the kind of thing you learned how to do in school, so a lot of people aren't skilled at this. What doesn't work:
  • Say nothing and hope the other person figures it out for himself 
  • Repress your feelings for a long time, then blow up 
  • Attack the person by labeling and criticizing with something like, “You’re so sloppy. Why don’t clean up after yourself?” 
The reason these approaches don’t work is because they usually lead to defensive reactions and arguments. The person may shut down and not even hear what you’re trying to say.

When you give feedback the right way, you focus on the behavior, not the person. There’s a simple 4-step process that works well. It helps you stay calm and use language that makes it more likely the person will listen to your message.

1.  Describe the behavior – What specifically is the person doing or not doing?
2.  Share your reaction – how you feel about it
3.  Explain the impact of their actions
4.  State what you’d like this person to do in the future – what you want 

So instead of saying:
“Sharon, that report was full of errors. Don’t ever turn in anything like that again.” 

Try something like this:
“Sharon, the final report you turned in had several typos. I’m concerned because it leaves our clients with a bad impression about the quality of our work and they might decide to take their business somewhere else. Next time, please proofread the document carefully before you send it to me. Will you do that?”

Give the person a chance to respond and commit to making the change. If there are issues to discuss, you've increased the chances of both parties being honest and open. This approach strengthens your relationship with that individual and you can feel good about the way you handled the situation.
"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet (1749-1832)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are You Willing to Listen to Feedback?

We all make mistakes.

While you probably agree intellectually with that statement, it’s not always easy to admit when you actually make one. Especially when someone else points it out to you.

Learning to graciously respond to constructive feedback is one of the most important skills you can ever learn. But we aren’t taught how to do it in school or at home. Most people respond with defensiveness, excuses, or withdrawal. Those reactions shut down communication, so the recipient of the feedback doesn’t learn anything, and the behavior doesn’t change.

In this video one of the most outstanding and entertaining speakers I know, Lou Heckler, tells a memorable story about his new dentist’s reaction to feedback. It’s a terrific example of a person who really listened and took action.

Next time someone tries to give you constructive feedback, invite that person to tell you more about what happened and what they want you to do instead. When you find out what they're looking for, your chances of delivering that behavior in the future are greatly enhanced.

And be sure to THANK the person for being honest with you. It took courage to bring the subject to your attention.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Give Feedback the Right Way

Giving feedback to someone who has created a problem for you is an important life skill. If you don’t do it well, the other person is likely to react defensively and shut down the conversation. When you learn the 4 steps for giving feedback the right way, you’ll see a big difference in the way that individual responds to your words.

When you've needed to give someone constructive feedback, did you follow these steps?
“One of the best ways to give better feedback is to get better at receiving feedback. When that happens, you are better able to put yourself in the shoes of the other person and give more helpful and successful feedback.” – Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris in From Bud to Boss

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Feedback: A Gift Many People Reject

If you're like me, one of the hardest things you have to do in life is listen to someone tell you that you're not perfect. Now they don't come right out and say that, of course. Most take a more subtle approach. They point out something you've done - or haven't done - that they don't like.

The problem is, when you're receiving this kind of feedback, your natural inclination is to defend yourself. Explain your rationale for doing something. Make excuses. Often you're not listening because you're waiting for your turn to talk so you can justify your actions.

What you're really doing is rejecting a gift that someone is trying to give you. We all have blind spots, and this person is attempting to remove the scales that keep you from seeing yourself as others see you.

Think for a moment what's going on in the mind of the feedback giver before he speaks with you. Most likely, what you said or did has been bothering him for a while. He's spent time rehearsing how he's going to approach you and what he's going to say. It takes courage for him to bring a problem behavior to your attention, and he's not sure how you're going to react.

What if you simply said, "Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I didn't realize I did that."

Now you've defused a potentially confrontational situation and made it possible for dialogue to happen. You can calmly explore what aspects of your behavior have caused problems and what that person would like you to do differently.

Next time someone gives you constructive feedback, take this approach. I guarantee the outcome will be more positive than what you may have experienced in the past.