You’re probably giving people feedback the wrong way

In a work environment, it’s tempting to point out minor grievances. After all, if you’re the boss in a modern office you might think it’s your job to provide constructive criticism. The sales presentation had too much detail. The status meeting went too long.

Sadly, this is all too common. I’ve worked in environments where the concepts of “incremental personal improvements” and “radical transparency” are the norm.

It’s not the best way to lead, though.

According to recent research into how the brain works, constant nitpicking is not ideal. Brain scientists know that our neurons and synaptic connections actually grow and develop in the areas where we have the strongest brain activity. If someone is really smart about running data analytics on your social media accounts, and they have incredible tacit knowledge in that area, pointing out a total lack of people skills means you are giving feedback in the worst way possible. You are not helping that person to excel. In fact, you are inhibiting their growth by focusing on their negative attributes and pointing out flaws.

There’s a better way, and it’s a fairly simple and obvious trick.

In mentoring students at a college these last few years, I’ve learned that real growth happens when I point out their strengths and give them positive feedback. I’m well-known for telling people what they did right. “You did an awesome job on that marketing study” is a common refrain. “You cranked out that data analytics report perfectly” is a smart coda.

If you lead people, the trick is to tell people they’re awesome in a real and genuine way–to point out the specific things they did right to help the team and how they accomplished important tasks with excellence.

I believe it’s the secret to leading a successful team.

Here’s an example.

I recently worked on a podcast with a few college students. I love their energy and enthusiasm for learning how to record the audio, edit out the fluff, and promote the final product. One member of the team has learned the balance between being too scripted and not following closely to a script. To be honest, this is a life lesson–how much should we explore new ideas and try radical things, and how much should we stick to the business playbook? It takes a lifetime, and college students are just at the starting gate.

During the recording process, I kept giving the host encouraging feedback. I said “you’re awesome” a lot. I pointed out what worked. We kept improving. We found a balance between rabbit trailing too much and not adhering so closely to the topic at hand.

I’m amazed at how this helped us all get along and how the project turned out better.

I love doing this mentoring, and I’ve seen amazing growth.

I’ve noticed when I do start pointing out problems and flaws, it tends to drag everyone down. It’s not that I never redirect their efforts, but I avoid having that take precedence or overshadow a constant flow of positive feedback.

Will you try giving radically positive feedback?

Forget radical transparency. Praise them like crazy instead.

From: Inc.

How to handle criticism at work

Aditi Sharma Kalra’s honest and straightforward guide on responding to negative feedback in a positive way.

We’ve all been there. Put in our hardest effort, worked long hours and even gone the extra mile – only to be criticised for imperfections big and small. It takes a grain of provocation for this conversation to go south into a war of words, or worse a reply-all email territory; instead, it takes all your emotional energy to stay calm, patient and composed, and walk off from this conversation with a smile and a handshake.

Given just how often we all deal with this, without further ado, let’s dive into some ways we can all respond to negative feedback in a positive way.

First, listen to the message, not the tone. With all the dramatic words usually peppered while delivering criticism, “it is easy to simply take criticism wholesale and focus on how the message was delivered to you”, says Ang Woon Jiun, group learning manager at COMO Hotels and Resorts.

The subsequent emotional drive may leave you feeling like you need to justify yourself on the spot. Ang urges us to read a little deeper: “When a supervisor says, ‘You spent so much time and got it all wrong’, they probably mean, ‘I believed in you and I am disappointed you did not deliver’.”

Having taken the calmer route, the next step is to “dig deeper as to the source of the criticism, background to the issue raised, and the probable immediate trigger,” says Vishal Chhiber, VP of human resources at Emerio GlobeSoft.

This action of trying to address the cause and not the symptoms behind it is also recommended by Sonam Jain, vice-president of HR for Asia Pacific at DHL eCommerce, who recommends asking ourselves three precise questions:

  • Is this feedback coming directly from the person giving it to you? This helps you determine if it’s not hearsay.
  • What was the “specific” action and the “impact” it had on the person providing the feedback? This helps you narrow down exactly what you did, and it’s probable impact that you didn’t realise.
  • What would the person suggest you do differently to have a better outcome? This helps you understand the other person’s perspective and opens a possibility for a positive discussion.

Possibly, these questions will help you objectively evaluate the criticism on its merit by checking its validity – with the result that your response is more likely to be positive, rather than defensive.

It’s simply not worth your time to give it a second thought, say if it’s from someone you know who finds something to criticise about everyone.

Body language and gestures play a role as well, wherein Chhiber recommends sharing a smile with the feedback giver to disarm them. After all, it takes courage to give feedback, and although it may not always seem so, in most cases you’re receiving critical feedback because the giver cares enough about you to share honestly.

Finally, to close the loop, say thank you, and promise to get back if it is required. “Accept if you are at fault, share facts and correct the other party if needed, without getting offensive,” Chhiber says.

Ang adds: “Think about the criticism over a night or more and then get back to the person to share objectively your thoughts about it. Chances are, there will be at least some truths to what the person said.”

You may, of course, have faced cases of unqualified or unsolicited criticism (who hasn’t?). At times, it could be someone just venting their frustration from an unrelated incident, but at other times it should just be taken with a grain of salt.

“It’s simply not worth your time to give it a second thought, say if it’s from someone you know who finds something to criticise about everyone,” shares Margie Warrell, leadership speaker and founder of Global Courage, in her article called Handle Criticism Better.

“What you need to decide is how much authority you want to give to the person who has criticised you to begin with. If they’re doing it anonymously (like on social media), then I would recommend ‘not much’!

Yet, if they are someone you know, someone who generally would not be critical without a good reason, then maybe their feedback is worth trying to understand,” she says.

Whatever the case you’re facing, I hope this advice from HR experts helps you as much as it did me.

To conclude, a message from Jain, I agree fully with: “I strongly suggest to everyone, never outrightly reject feedback. It takes courage for someone to give feedback and it takes maturity for you to turn that into a positive discussion or an improvement exercise.”

Credit – Aditi Sharma Kalra

Source: Human Resources Online

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