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Thus far, we've been discussing feedback as if it's a discrete event. You deliver the feed back and your done. I want to encourage you to begin thinking about feedback as a process. It's a continuous loop that starts and ends with observation. In the middle, there are several specific steps and tactics you'll want to consider. As promised, let's start with observation. This refers to your systematic examination of the individuals on your team. Your watching them and interacting with them and in both cases you're not only helping but your taking notes.
Mental notes while your actually with them and then real notes immediately after. Observation is about you paying enough attention to them and their work ,such that you can creditably offer feedback when needed. In fact it's such an interesting and often overlooked skill, that we'll follow-up with the session and dedicate it to understanding the ins and outs of effective observation. After observing behavior, when you spot real opportunities to offer feedback, next you prepare. You don't jump right in, you prepare.
Sometimes your preparation might simply consist of a few reflective moments. Other times, you may see fit to take a few minutes and look over notes you've taken about the person. The point is ,to be sure you're acting on good data, that you have a useful advice to offer, and that you've thought about how to effectively deliver in a way that helps them hear you. Okay. When you initiate the actual exchange, begin by stating your observation and its importance. Remain unemotional, be very specific and be very concise.
For example, Susan, I wanted to share a thought about your Monday morning briefings. They are being received well, but I believe you can deliver the same information in 30 minutes or less instead of the hour we now use. That'll require you to focus a bit more on what's really important and include less analysis and more of your conclusions. Again, that feedback was largely unemotional, specific and concise. Next, wait for a reaction usually there will be one. If not ,you need to use a question to probe for their response.
Something like How do you respond to that? If they didn't respond, use questions like this to elicit a response to help you understand their awareness about the behavior. Sometimes they'll know exactly what you're talking about, and other times, they honestly won't, so be prepared with specific examples and advice. Once you feel they understand you, it's time to discuss the path forward. Here in real-time you'll be brain storming with the person about how to address the issue. In the example I used, maybe the two of you can identify one or more parts of the weekly briefing that aren't really needed.
Ideally, they co-create and own the solution. Feedback is most effective when you're both partnering to find a solution instead of you dictating an answer. Next ,it's smart to wrap up with a quick summary. The goal is to reinforce the possible solution by saying it again as a means of closure. If you have any doubt about how well they're hearing you politely ask them to summarize so you can hear it in their words. And by thanking them and the exchange is over. Even though the exchange is complete the process is not.
Now, through continued observation, you have to ask yourself, when is a good time to follow-up? Using the weekly briefings example, next week if Suzanne delivers an hour-long presentation another somewhat stronger feedback session will be needed. If she nails the briefing in 30 minutes or less, you might catch her in private and say, hey, good job today. And that's all that's needed. Providing feedback is a large part of what you'll do as a leader, and you can't look at each conversation as a discrete event. It's an ongoing process.
The more you follow-up on occasion and remain open to feedback yourself, the faster the team will adopt a positive attitude about feedback as a tool to support great performance.
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