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Giving Constructive Feedback - How to Transform Challenges Into Growth

Successful companies do not accept failure but transform the problems into opportunities to learn and grow. A key to this transformation is effective feedback around the problem. The model below will help you provide feedback in a way that will help people learn and change.

Feedback may be used to reinforce a behavior that is considered to be positive as well as to change a behavior that is considered to be negative. As the leader you have a responsibility to create an environment within your team where giving and receiving constructive feedback is considered the norm. Healthy effective teams regularly exchange feedback between all team members.

The following outlines the steps to take to provide feedback effectively. Your goal is to deliver feedback in a respectful and constructive manner, which will help the listener hear your feedback in a positive way. Although there is no guarantee that your message will be heard as intended, this process will maximize your probability of success.

1. Identify the Problem Clearly and Specifically

Take the time to identify the problem clearly and then organize the issues that need to be addressed. Is this an isolated problem or can this be seen in many areas of their performance? How does this issue impact the success of the individual's performance? How does it impact the rest of the team/organization?

2. Select an Appropriate Time and Place

Pick a time and place where you will not be interrupted, and where the environment is appropriate to the type of message you are delivering. Explain the value of feedback and that you want to give feedback to support an individual's growth and learning.

3. Setting the Stage

Acknowledge that it is difficult to hear feedback. The most common error is for people to take the feedback personally, stop listening and become defensive. This does not allow for the person to easily change their behavior. It is therefore useful to state that the feedback is about a specific behavior, and not about them as a person.

4. Describe the Behavior

Describe the behavior that you see. Be specific and stick to the facts. e.g. "You are consistently late to our team meetings."

5. Make Your Case

Detail the implications of how this issue affects others, ones-self, or the success of the company e.g. "When you are late to meetings, people do not see you as a committed team member."

6. Hold Your Ground

If he/she pushes back you need to listen for new information, but hold your ground and continue to be specific until it is clear that the message is understood. e.g. "I understand that you have been very busy recently, but your being late impacts the rest of the team who are also busy." Often you may only need to go to this step for the person to get it and agree to change in which case go to step 10. If not go further.

7. Explore the Issue Fully

Before you can develop a plan for change you need to fully understand the total context in which the behavior occurs. e.g. Are you having difficulty managing your time effectively? At this stage the person receiving the feedback may offer a different interpretation of the behavior or apologize and commit to changing their behavior. e.g. "My tardiness is due to a medical problem that requires time sensitive injections."

8. Describe the Positive Consequences

To build a commitment to change, describe the positive consequences of the behavior being addressed. e.g. "If you arrive on time to our meetings, you will be accepted by the team and involved in the decision making." If there is now a commitment to change you can go to step 10.

9. Describe the Negative Consequences

If the individual is still pushing back you will need to describe the negative consequences of the behavior. e.g. "If you continue to be late you will be placed on a performance plan and risk getting demoted or fired." (This is an example of a consequence if no new information was discovered in step 7.) This model is useful if the person is prepared to listen and change. However not everyone is open to receive feedback and willing to adapt their behavior. If the person you are giving feedback to cannot use constructive feedback, you will need to decide whether you want to accept their behavior or end the relationship.

10. Plan for Change

The outcome of this process is a commitment and a plan to change. The plan should include agreement of the stated problem and a detailed action plan with milestones for progress reviews e.g. "As agreed we will change your hours due to your medical condition and communicate to the team the need to change the timing of the team meeting to include you. Lets review if this is working in two weeks."

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