Nov 5, 2023

How to Give Effective Feedback. You Need an Infinity Loop.


“I’m so pleased with your work. You are such an asset to the team.”
I’ll admit, I preened a bit in the grey conference room chair as my client shared in this feedback session. 

“But…” and now I slumped a little. I always feel like “but” means nothing I said before that is true. He went on to share some important observations about the process we used and how I could improve how I worked inside that system. 

“And {insert Charlie Brown teacher voice}.”

I don’t even remember what he said. All the words were totally lost on me after the feedback that felt a little negative.

Feedback already elicits FEELINGS. Inadequacy, resistance, shut down, rejection, suspicion, discouragement, shame, powerlessness…shall I go on?

Ideally, feedback plays a crucial role in self-awareness that moves you from the blindspot space to the open space where change can happen (remember the Johari Window from last month?)

The problem is most people suck at feedback. Not because they’re bad humans or uncaring leaders, but because they got bad advice, watched bad examples, or received no training at all on how to give helpful and effective feedback.

The problem is most people suck at feedback.

The Chief Offending Tool — the feedback sandwich. You know the one, “good thing you’ve done, the bad stuff, but you’re still good.”

I know it feels like it should be a good thing. But just like I shared in my story of my client, most of the time, we aren’t listening because we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or, we’re too caught in the negative to remember the good (we humans have a strong negativity bias). So all that goodness you shared…it’s a buzzing sound the listener can’t do anything with.

all that goodness you shared…it’s a buzzing sound the listener can’t do anything with.


And right now, in many organizations, there are so many feedback conversations. (I’m hosting a workshop next week to help you with this and other difficult discussions.)

Right now is the time to ditch the stale sandwich for a shiny infinity loop. Let me share:

  1. Start with relationship.
    Unless you’re working with robots, you’re in relationships with people. The trust inside that relationship determines how your feedback is received. So think about the other person: What’s the best way to deliver this feedback? How can you support the other person and build trust? How do you communicate in words and actions you care about the other person? Do you understand how your Enneagram type and theirs relate together?

  2. Ask for permission.
    Unsolicited feedback wreaks havoc. So simply ask instead. “I have some observations I want to share with you. Would you be interested in them?” Or “I’ve noticed something I think could really help you. Would you like to hear about it?” Getting permission not only encourages listening but also engages the feedback receiver to start moving toward ownership. (Hint: that’s the goal.)

  3. Begin with the vision.
    Paint a picture of the good future this feedback helps create and encourage them to imagine it as well. Here are a few ideas:
    “I’ve heard you say you want more responsibility in the department. I see you there, too.”
    “Where are you wanting to grow in the next six months? What would that mean to you?”
    “I want to see you taking on the next level of leadership. If you are interested in that path, what does that look like to you?”

  4. Use specific examples.
    Use a recent example or two that can illustrate an objective you’re wanting them to achieve or a behavior that you see they need to adjust or expand. The example should include the impact of the behavior on the work. (Behaviors are observable. They aren’t assumptions about motivations.) Tie the examples to the vision for the future. General attitude or tone is an unhelpful form of feedback. And please! For the love of all that’s holy, do not say they give off a “vibe.”

  1. Ask, Listen, and Futurecast. (THIS IS THE SECRET SAUCE)
    Ask how they see those examples. Questions like, “What am I missing from that situation? Would you do anything differently if you could do it again?” “How do you think that meeting went?”

    You can also ask if they see other areas they know they need to grow in to achieve that vision. Make a specific plan of support. Is it a course to take? A coach? A quick check-in before a meeting? A weekly stand-up to stay on track? Keep aligning the activities to the vision. Then, act on that plan and get those resources. And as the giver of feedback, set a time to check back in and repeat the process. That brings us back to the relationship and builds trust. See, a shiny infinity loop! 

(When considering supporting your people with effective resources, I’m hosting the Joyosity™ Retreat in February. This experience provides a professional development opportunity that will support you and the people you give feedback to. Contact me and just write “retreat” if you’d like more information.)

Feedback brings all the feels because it’s personal. Not in a vendetta against you personal, but it’s about how you as a person work in the world. And we absolutely need feedback to grow and change.

But goodness! How many times have you received unhelpful feedback? Or you sat like me with that buzzy feeling while you anxiously waited for the “but” in the feedback sandwich.

So, let’s imagine how that could be different. What would it look like for you to give feedback like with the loop? Or receive feedback from your leader in this way? Feels different, doesn’t it?

I call that feeling “ouch and amen.” It stings a little, but it also feels like freedom because the clarity means you have a way forward.

Choose your next step:

  • You got what you need: Make a plan for your feedback conversation based on the five-step infinity loop.
  • You want more: Register for the Turn Difficult Discussions into Meaning Connections online workshop.
  • Not sure what you need? Grab a Spark Call with me. We’ll take 15 minutes on the phone to see what’s working and what isn’t to find the most pressing problem so you can choose what’s the best next step for you or your team.

COMMENTs:

  1. […] want is the type of feedback that is specific, meaningful, and actionable. (Last week, I gave you the five-step infinity loop to give helpful and effective feedback. Like good bitters, it’ll enhance this mini-training if […]

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