Frequently we need to tell one of our team that something they did or didn’t do is not what we wanted, nor what we expect them to keep doing in the future. To get them to change their behaviour we need to give them corrective feedback. Here’s a useful five step model which will help make the process of giving this “negative” feedback a little easier and much more effective.
Unlike giving positive feedback, giving negative feedback to one of our team members is usually not something we particularly look forward to. But giving negative or corrective feedback can be more important and valuable than giving someone a compliment for a job well done.
So here’s an adaption of our Positive Feedback Model which is very useful to practice and keep in mind when giving feedback on an undesirable behaviour:
Any kind of feedback always starts with asking the person for their permission. We use this question to introduce the feedback process, and help the person get mentally prepared to receive our feedback. They need to know we are about to tell them something important which we want them to listen to and react to.
And the person we are asking does have the right to say no. Maybe they are already in a bad mood or in a rush – if this is the case now is not the time to give them corrective feedback. If the person says it is not a good time, decide with them when it would be a better time, and wait until then.
It’s as simple as:
“Can I give you some feedback?"
Once we have commenced the feedback process with our permission question, the next step is to clearly explain to the person what the behaviour was that you witnessed that needs correcting.
Remember, you can only talk about behaviours – the things you actually see, hear or read. You can’t talk about the person’s attitudes or intentions – if you do the person will nearly always get defensive and argumentative. Things you have physically witnessed and can describe as behaviours cannot be argued with, they are simply facts.
For example, lets say I’m your boss and you always arrive at the very last minute for your shift so we don’t have enough time to catch up before you start. Imagine if I started off my feedback back with these two different lines, what would your initial reaction be to each?
“You obviously don’t care enough to get here on time, and clearly aren’t interested in doing what you’ve been asked…”
“When you arrive at the muster room two minutes before the pre-shift talk starts…”
Which one of those two pieces of evidence do you think you can argue with or deny? And which one do you think would make you most defensive straight away? Simply starting the sentence with “when you” helps force the focus on behaviours.
So we need to stay focussed only on what the person did, said, or didn’t do. This is especially important for negative feedback - we must have specific evidence rather than our interpretation.
Something like this:
“When you interrupt other in the meeting…”
”When you don’t complete all the parts of your shift report …”
“Here’s what Happens…”
The third step is to tell the person what the result is when they do the thing you have just described. You will talk about the actual specific outcomes of the action, and also the intangible outcomes such as how it makes you or other feel. We want the person to know what happened as a result of their actions.
In this step you are allowed to talk about your feelings or reactions. It is common to use words such as “frustrated”, “disappointed”, or “annoyed”.
“…it makes them feel like their point hasn’t been heard, and disrupts the flow of the meeting.”
”…I can’t pass on enough information to the next shift, and that gets them off to a slow start while they work out where everything is up to.”
Pause and Listen
This can be the hardest part. It is now the other person’s time to talk, and you must let them. You must pause for as long as it takes until they speak next. It could take a while, but you must make sure they are the next to speak. If the feedback has been delivered well and focussed on behaviours, they probably won’t have a lot to say.
But you might find by listening that there are perfectly good reasons for why the person did or said what they did, or in fact that you got the wrong information or misinterpreted what you saw. You must give the person a chance to explain themselves. And you must not interrupt or cut them short – this is a very important moment in your relationship and it is vital you allow them enough time to say what they need to say.
At this point the feedback is finished. Once you’ve listened to the other person and possibly had a little more conversation based on what they said, you can say thanks for your time and go separate ways. (Hint: Don’t now try to talk about something else – keep the feedback session separate and go back to your normal working conversations later).
The last step is OPTIONAL. You do not necessarily need to tell the person what you want them to do in the future. I would strongly recommend that you initially try this model without using this final step. The feedback will be just as effective by following the first four steps, and not specifically telling the person what you want them to do differently – they should get the message.
If necessary though, the final step is to explain to the person what behaviour you want them to do in the future.
“Can you arrive at least ten minutes before the start of shift talk in future?”
“Can you wait your turn to speak, and not interrupt others while it is there turn?”
“Can you please follow the report template and make sure all the sections are filled out?”
Negative or constructive feedback should be a frequent event, so we need to make it short, sharp and to the point. Feedback shouldn’t be a huge deal or a drawn out process. As long as we get our message across about what happened that we weren’t happy with, and that we want them to do things differently in the future, then our job is done.
The aim of giving a person corrective feedback should always be to change their actions in the future. We are not trying to change what happened in the past, or dwell on the behaviours that we need to give feedback on. We must always keep in mind that the point of feedback is to be forward looking, and to influence the person to behave in a certain way in the future – hopefully in a more effective, safe or productive way.
|Here's What Happens...
If you're ready for more on giving feedback, check out our previous post: Six Tips to Improve Corrective Feedback
- Jamie Ross
Mining Man - Practical Safety, Leadership and Productivity Ideas for the Mining Industry
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