Is there an Easier Way to Give Tough Feedback?

In a recent post we shared data from Gallup indicating two important things:

  1. For the first time in twenty years the U.S. workforce experienced an increase in the percentage of workers who are engaged in their work (up from 30% to 35%)
  2. The primary reason for the increase was due to changes in how organizations develop people

As you are most likely aware, a key component of developing others involves giving them performance-related and behavior-related feedback — both good (easy) and bad (tough?).

In a recent article published by the Harvard Business Review, author Monique Valcour, a management professor, executive coach and keynote speaker, shared some valuable insight into the best ways to give “tough” feedback, and also into some of the misconceptions managers often have about how to do so.

“When asking about skills that are essential for leaders, the ability to give tough feedback comes up frequently,” Valcour wrote. “But what exactly is tough feedback?”

She goes on to suggest that the phrase can connote bad news, but that it might also signify the way we think we need to be when giving negative feedback: firm, resolute, and unyielding. The article also suggests that “tough often points to the discomfort some of us experience when giving negative feedback, and to the challenge of doing so in a way that motivates change instead of making the other person feel defensive.”

While she warns managers to avoid common traps, such as an angry approach versus a coaching approach, procrastinating until a “better time,” or surrounding negative feedback with positive feedback, she also shares three elements that she has observed as being part of high-impact feedback conversations:

  1. An intention to help the employee grow, rather than to show them they were wrong.
  2. Openness on the part of the feedback giver, which is essential to creating a high-quality connection that facilitates change.
  3. Inviting the employee into the problem-solving process.

Ms. Valcour’s observations are well-aligned with ours, and her suggestions ring true. Most managers are aware that team members crave feedback (some more than others) but, as she points out, common pitfalls often result in avoidance or a breakdown in the communication. Possibly the good suggestions offered in her article can help more leaders take a more effective and timely approach.

Read the full article…