The process of communication comes full circle only when the sender’s intended message is completely understood by the receiver of the message and feedback about that understanding is communicated to the sender by the receiver. However, it is not always as simple as sending and receiving messages. At times we need to communicate feedback as well and depending upon the situation, the feedback may be positive or critical.
Minal shares her experience and says, “The schedules had been sent out two weeks in advance and the dates had been blocked for the monthly review meeting. This was one monthly catch up session we did as a team wherein we went over all our business plans and reviewed our numbers. This was my fourth review meet with this new team I had been asked to lead and as I sat in the conference room waiting for the team members, I still worried about Rahul who had consistently walked in, unprepared, for each of the review meetings. What was I to do if he did that again?”
We are all faced with similar apprehensions when we need to give feedback. At such times, we may choose to ignore the problem, we may choose to get upset about the whole thing or we could consciously choose to share feedback with the person concerned.
This five step process is quite helpful when it comes to sharing constructive feedback:
1. Point out the Problem in Behaviour: It is essential to understand the difference between the person and the problem. We need to point out that we have a problem with the person’s behaviour and not with the person.
Minal: “Rahul, I need to speak to you. Could you please come with me to my office? I have noticed that you have been walking in unprepared for our review meetings. It is essential that you come armed with your data when we do the review meeting so that we are all on the same page.”
2. Point out exactly what is wrong: Vague feedback seldom helps. It is therefore essential to specifically state what the issue is quite clearly and why that issue is a problem. Not painting a clear picture will only lead to ineffective communication and a lot of misunderstandings.
Minal: “The business plans we create are all dependent on the numbers. When you don’t bring in the data, coming to a conclusion regarding what plans are feasible and what plans are not becomes difficult.”
3. Help them recognize the Issue: It is not enough just to give feedback. Once feedback has been given, it is also important to seek acknowledgment as to whether the issue has been understood or not and whether the person receiving the feedback plans to do something about it.
Minal: “It is a problem area and you do see that it needs to be corrected, right?”
4. Establish Goals: Goal setting essentially entails creating an action plan which will help in attaining the desired end result. Feedback does not stop just with pointing out what is ineffective. Effective feedback comprises solutions to problems, not just identifying and acknowledging problems. In the case of Minal and Sarika, the end result is a change in behaviour and approach to work.
Minal: “Help me understand the reason for being unprepared so that we can both work out solutions to this problem together. Let us figure out how we can solve this problem. Also, let me know how I can help you.”
5. Evaluate Performances: A follow- through is essential, especially after feedback has been given and goals have been set. A performance evaluation post constructive feedback helps deliver two pertinent messages: i) It helps to understand whether the feedback has percolated down to the receiver of the feedback. ii) It helps in establishing the message that the person providing objective feedback is concerned about the issue.
Minal: “I would like to do a small review with you every Friday at 4.00 PM so that we can resolve all the issues you are facing and get you all the requisite training before our next review meet.”
A bonus tip: Focus only on developing future plans through your feedback. And remember, especially while giving constructive feedback; make sure you give it in a private setting.