their position. Therefore, in general, it is important to spend ade-quate
time on positive performance markers to lessen the blow of
negative feedback. However, there are some individuals who will
benefit from a “tough love” approach, where they are forced to face
the reality of their inadequate performance.
KEEP IT TO TWO TO FOUR DEVELOPMENTAL
At some point in the feedback conversation, you will have to move
past the positive feedback and provide recommendations for areas
that the individual can improve upon. The question, then, is how
many recommendations should be given for optimal facilitation
of behaviour change? The research suggests that keeping it to a
maximum of two to four developmental recommendations reduc-es
the chance that individuals will be overwhelmed with areas for
improvement. It is important to choose your developmental mes-sage.
A recent study found that performance improvements were
greater for managers who received a small versus a large amount
of negative feedback. In addition, studies in the coaching literature
point to positive outcomes of coaching sessions where a maximum
of two to four areas of improvement were focused on. These find-ings
can be directly related to the developmental planning process;
by focusing on only a few areas of improvement, two to four man-ageable
goals can be set to address these needs, which requires an
amount of effort and attention that is sustainable.
The recommendations reviewed above focused on characteristics
of feedback that facilitate success in feedback provision. However,
there is also a need to consider how the feedback is delivered. A
perhaps obvious but important aspect of feedback provision is
that it is delivered in a supportive manner. A supportive feedback
environment has been found to relate to perceptions of feedback
accuracy and acceptance.
Starting the session by giving the participant some control
over how they will receive their feedback (e.g., “Should I lead you
through the feedback, or do you have questions you would like
to ask?”) sets the stage for a supportive environment. Additional
strategies that you can use to establish a supportive feedback ses-sion
are being mindful of how you are giving feedback, displaying
empathy, gently probing the person on their thoughts about the
feedback and framing the session around goals so the person can
visualize the eventual outcomes of the process. It is also important
to normalize the person’s feelings. Haven’t we all felt discouraged
about feedback we have received at some point in our careers?
Normalizing any surprise, disappointment or discouragement
that the individual feels, while encouraging an orientation towards
doing something with the feedback to improve, will reduce feelings
of hopelessness and work towards resolving issues that have arose.
Although a difficult process, providing feedback can be a reward-ing
one if it results in personal insight, developmental growth
and performance improvements. By being transparent about the
feedback process, making your feedback specific and focused on
behaviour, giving more positive than negative feedback, focusing
on two to four areas for improvement and being supportive during
the process, you can increase your chances of getting these valued
results out of your next feedback conversation. n
Tim Jackson is the president of Jackson Leadership Systems Inc.
Leann Schneider is an independent consultant who works as an asso-ciate
for Jackson Leadership Systems Inc.
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