How to Deliver Feedback with Impact

Getting feedback can be tough. Giving it effectively can be even tougher. Instead of saying what we mean with compassion, as feedback givers we often say nothing at all or short change the message, leaving the receiver bewildered. And we all know bewilderment is not much of a motivator.

As leaders you are undoubtedly working with all kinds of people who have very different styles. How do you reach them with your message without being too soft or, alternatively, painfully direct?

One answer to this question is to ALWAYS consider “impact” – both that of the employee and your own. Let me dissect this idea a bit.

When you begin to consider the tough feedback conversation you need to have with an employee (or anyone, for that matter), think first about the impact you want to make. Do you need to communicate a greater understanding of the pain that was caused? Is it to provide clarity for the “offender” so that they avoid this type of situation in the future? Or is it a message of encouragement or recognition?

As you prepare for the conversation, consider each of these three questions to help you define your impact:

  • What do I want the individual to know?
  • What do I want them to do?
  • How do I want them to feel?

In this context of feedback, you can view impact from two perspectives. The first is the impact of the action your team member took. If you can clarify to Jane the impact she made by yelling at Oscar in the middle of the office, she is much more likely to understand why a different communication style would be more effective. She may come to understand that just because she is mad and stressed and feeling unsupported, yelling and demeaning Oscar will only cause him to stop listening and potentially return fire. This is the impact you want to address.

Once Jane understands that she made a negative impact by using her approach with Oscar, you can move to what you want her to do. This is likely a collaborative discussion between you and Jane about what she could have done differently. The way in which you have this feedback conversation ultimately impacts what Jane takes away from the conversation and how she feels. In this example, you might want her to have clarity on the specific behaviors that need to change. You might also want her to know that you support her, that you are available to coach her on her communication skills and that this is a critical component to her ultimate success. Impact? Jane understands what went wrong, what she can do differently in the future and, most importantly, that she is supported by her boss.

Take advantage of the opportunities in your performance conversations to address impact – both your employee’s and your own –and deliver clear, direct and constructive feedback that makes a difference.

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