As senior professionals move to the next level in their careers, people responsibilities gain importance and usually if these ‘softer’ skills are not taken care of, even project success can be challenging. On the onset, it is critical to note that, giving feedback or “constructive criticism” as it is popularly known as does not mean criticizing another person. It means taking on joint responsibility for finding more effective ways to work together. It is a bit like mentoring, and is always for the benefit of the receiver.
Here are some steps you can take in order to make giving feedback a positive experience
- Pick your moment: Make it clear that you would like to give the person feedback. Check that it is a good time. Don’t give feedback when you’re angry or upset. Wait until you’ve calmed down.
- Timeliness: Don’t wait too long. Feedback should be given soon after the event, while both parties can still remember it clearly.
- Alternatives: Before you begin, make sure that you have a constructive alternative suggestion for what the other person could have said or done instead.
- Talk about behavior, not personality: Feedback is not a comment on the kind of person someone is. Focus on the person’s words or actions, not on their character. Remember to give some positive feedback too.
- Be specific: Be factual and neutral. Describe when it happened, and exactly what was done or said – not your interpretation of it
- Explain the effect on you: Presenting feedback as your opinion makes it much easier for the recipient to hear and accept it, even if you are giving negative feedback
- Pause:Give the other person an opportunity to respond. Listen carefully, and respect their perspective. Consider whether you may have misunderstood
- Listen: Be prepared to listen to some frank feedback in return.
It’s not always easy to hear about one’s areas of improvements from somebody else. So it’s important to keep in mind that receiving feedback does not mean being criticized. It just means having someone help you find more effective ways of working together.
Here’s what you can do to make receiving feedback a useful exercise for yourself:
1. Be open: Be receptive to new ideas and opinions. Treat it as something positive. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Don’t interrupt them or become defensive. Feedback helps you understand how you are perceived by others, and so it can enable you to become more effective.
2. Understand the message: Make sure you have fully understood what the other person is trying to say – especially before responding. You can always ask questions for clarity.
3. Be aware of your responses: Attentiveness indicates that you value what someone has to say and puts both of you at ease.
4. Reflect and decide what to do: Assess the value of the feedback, the consequences of using it or ignoring it, and then decide what to do because of it. Your response is your choice. If you disagree with the feedback, consider asking for a second opinion from someone else.
5. Make suggestions: Jointly develop a plan for future action. Discuss with the other person ways in which you can work together more effectively in future.
6. Thank the person:Remember that the person giving feedback felt strongly enough to bother mentioning it to you. Do them the courtesy of at least giving the matter some consideration and always thank them.
7. Follow up: Your follow-up might involve implementing the suggestions given to you.
Hopefully all the senior professionals reading this, will get into the roles with these guidelines and enable improvements in workplace situations!