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  • Writer's pictureMichael Soderling

Feedback – two tips that change everything

Updated: Jan 30


I often encounter managers who scratch their heads because they are aware that they could provide feedback more often than they do.


One way to understand their hesitation is to reflect on your own experience of receiving explanations and justifications instead of appreciation and consideration for your efforts, which can frustrate even the best of us. So, how can we reduce the risk of explanations and justifications and create a functional feedback culture? I have two concrete tips:


The first one addresses the lack of alignment in the conditions under which collaboration takes place. Let me illustrate what I mean with an exercise I often apply in management teams, namely the role analysis exercise. In this exercise, each person is asked to list the typical contexts in which they find themselves. For example, management team meetings and project meetings. Then, they are asked to list how they perceive the purpose of each context and, finally, how they perceive their role in those contexts.


Once this is done, I let the participants share what they have written with each other, and, as you can imagine, it always leads to interesting discussions. It becomes apparent to those involved that they have interpreted purposes and roles differently. The next step is to negotiate alignment, and often, we delve into questions about goals, responsibilities, and mandates. When sufficient alignment is achieved, two things happen:


Collaborations improve because everyone is more in sync. Think of a football team or a symphony orchestra. What would happen in those contexts if there were no alignment in purpose and roles? The same principles apply to the management team and project team. The second thing that happens is that when people are more in sync, the need for corrective and negative feedback decreases, while the opportunities for positive feedback increase.


As a consequence of the above, before you give feedback, you can benefit from examining how the other person has interpreted the conditions. This will lead to more adult conversations with less risk of explanations and justifications.


The second tip concerns the extent to which you have a functioning method. What I always emphasise to the managers I train is that feedback should be based on facts rather than opinions. In this context, I define facts as something that can be observed or verified. An opinion provides no objective information and speaks more about the values of the person expressing it, while facts allow others to use their own judgment and draw their own conclusions. If you're up for it, why don’t you try and discern facts from opinions in these two examples:


  • Your presentation was not that great.

  • The participants were silent during your presentation, and afterwards, I received several questions about the purpose of the meeting.

  • What a great presentation you delivered!

  • You told participants they could ask questions, and when participants were challenging, I saw no signs of you getting frustrated.


Hearing that your presentation was not that great naturally increases the risk of defensive responses, while facts reduce that risk. Positive, fact-based feedback is received in a completely different way than a vague sentence such as "you're fantastic!"


If you find this reading inspiring, I suggest trying out the suggestions. I stand by the promise in the headline – these tips change everything.

 

The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.


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