It takes GUTS to give feedback, and a QTIP to receive it. What do I mean by this?
Giving and receiving feedback effectively is a top-rated leadership skill, yet when people hear the word feedback, they often relate it to criticism. The reason for this is that, at some point in our lives, we have all had a bad experience receiving negative feedback. But when we can interpret feedback objectively, we can learn to accept it more graciously. If we receive feedback and treat it as an opportunity to grow and improve, then it cannot really be negative. Accepting feedback constructively is a very positive method for creating change in ourselves and others. Therefore, I choose to call feedback – even the seemingly negative kind – 'constructive advice'.
Remember, feedback is simply one person stating their opinion. Of course, if you're receiving the same feedback from other sources as well, then you may see a pattern in behaviour that is most likely worth changing. Consider the following situation:
9:12 am – "Mary, I notice that you have been coming in 10 to 15 minutes past your scheduled shift start time for the past four days. Is there a reason for your tardiness? We need you at your desk, prepared to answer the phone at 9:00 am sharp!"
It takes GUTS to give someone feedback. GUTS is an acronym that I use to remember the four elements that help us to deliver feedback in a way that changes behaviour into something more desirable than it was before we addressed it.
Given with care – Use 'I' statements, rather than 'you' statements. People are entitled to their opinion, and this is a way of stating your own.
Useful – When addressing someone with constructive advice, focus on the behaviours rather than the individual. Separate the person from the problem. Condemning a person is hopeless; targeting a person's behaviour gives us hope.
Timely – Choose an appropriate and respectful time and place to offer feedback. I prefer to give praise in a public or open setting, and constructive feedback in private. Giving feedback immediately when behaviour requires correction is more effective than delaying or saving it for another time. If possible, comment on performance issues as they arise. Notice that in Mary's situation, the feedback is given at 9:12 am, just as she is arriving late for work. This saves storing frustration and allowing it to fester into larger problems.
Specific – You need to provide an individual with enough feedback to help them understand the need for change, and what will be required of them to accomplish the desired result. Don't overload people with too much information all at once. Giving feedback addressing one issue at a time will save you from diluting your key points. Also, focus on the present issues, and avoid digging up the past.
Likewise, receiving feedback effectively requires confidence and humility. A student taught me the QTIP acronym for this purpose, which means Quit Taking It Personally.
Feedback in the workplace is typically not about you, but rather what you do. There is a big difference. It takes guts for people to provide constructive feedback, but if you consider that they are trying to make a positive difference, then the feedback becomes less about you, and more about your behaviour and how to improve it. So don't shoot the messenger!
More often, organizations are using 360-degree interviews, in which colleagues evaluate each other's performance. In these instances, effective feedback skills are essential.
The best feedback opportunities – whether you are giving or receiving the feedback – are ones in which you can create a dialogue, or two-way discussion, allowing both parties a chance to ask questions, listen to each other, and be understood.
The intention of feedback is to help someone in a constructive way, not to hurt them. If you can begin the feedback process with a vision in mind of the person or situation being improved because of your feedback, your words and actions will follow your inner guidance system – your intent. Communicate your intent so that the receiver will understand your interest in helping them benefit.
You now have two new tools in your toolbox for building and maintaining successful workplace relations. Those tools are GUTS and QTIPS (and hopefully some Easter chocolate to sweeten the process).
Happy Spring, Happy April and Happy Easter,
PS: This article is dedicated to the great people at the Ministry of Transportation, whose feedback was very important and useful for me.
Feedme Feedback – Part 1 recieved International recognition, and is available on my website.