Courage. It’s a word we commonly associate with heroes and heroines; people admired for outstanding action and effect. But courageousness isn’t reserved for silver-armored protectors of the realm, fighting mythical creatures in fairy tale pages.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, courage is an everyday noun. By definition, courage is the act of doing something which frightens you. And for a great many, what frightens them the most in the workplace, is feedback. In fact, two-thirds of managers are not comfortable giving feedback.
True, it can be an uncomfortable process. It’s raw and revealing; it leaves us open to criticism and — sometimes — risks damaging personal relationships. But for some, feedback is so frightening they shy away from it completely. And that’s a shame.
Feedback is certainly not easy. It requires courage. But it is worth it.
So, let’s see how we go about developing the strength you need to embrace the feedback process…
If you’re afraid of feedback, you're not alone
Picture the scene: you’re tasked with reviewing a colleague’s performance, and you’ve got some constructive or corrective criticism to share. Whilst they’ve been doing a good job, you know they could be doing more. Perhaps they’re making sloppy mistakes, or they’ve lost sight of the wider company vision.
What do you do? Of course the right thing to do, is to be honest. But how does that make you feel?
The very thought of delivering a less-than-ideal performance review puts most people on the back foot. And this becomes even more challenging if this feedback needs to go to a close colleague, or a senior.
What if we flip the scenario, and it’s you who’s asking for feedback from a colleague or employee? How ready are you to embrace and accept what you hear in return?
Turns out, whichever end of the feedback loop you’re on, the emotions can be the same: nervousness, defensiveness and trepidation.
Sure, praise is much easier to share; it carries no risk of negative response. But all feedback – whether praise-worthy or damning – is useful… as long as it’s delivered well. In fact, it’s often the latter that’s the most valuable.
If the feedback process makes you nervous today, then you are not alone.
But as the saying goes: knowledge is power. A keen understanding of how to deliver, and how to receive, feedback will help you build the courage to tackle it head on.
What you need to know about giving feedback
How do you handle feedback with your company?
Once upon a time, the annual review was the favored approach. HR personnel and senior managers would group together, once a year, to conduct feedback on individual employee performance.
For many reasons, this technique is losing relevance. Instead, organizations are adopting a more seamless, continuous form of feedback, with great effect.
These days, workplaces are made up of teams which span generations. And continuous feedback is preferable across the board.
To put this in numbers, nearly 60% of team members would rather receive feedback on a daily or weekly basis — a figure which shoots up to 72% for Millennial employees.
But that isn’t to say that older employees don’t desire frequent feedback. In fact, some studies suggest the older you are, the more feedback you desire. So timeliness is key, but that doesn’t necessarily require courage; more responsiveness and good time management.
When it comes to corrective criticism you may need to muster up some bravery. It takes courage to be honest, especially if the truth risks upsetting someone you respect.
The thing is, who are you benefiting if you side step negative feedback? Are you really protecting the recipient, or are you actually protecting yourself?
In one study, 92% of people agreed that, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” It seems employees respond well to — and what to receive — constructive criticism. It’s all in how it’s done.
You can remove the awkwardness and fear from feedback — whilst ensuring it’s worthwhile for the recipient — by following four simple rules:
Don’t let it get personal
In the majority of cases, performance reviews are exactly that: all about performance. Rarely will you be required to give feedback on a team member or employee’s personality or values.
As such, you can make yourself more confident about giving feedback by taking the “who” out of your comments, and focusing on the “what”.
What did they do that needs improvement? What sort of behavior do you expect from someone in their position? What are their necessary goals and objectives to improve?
If a colleague feels they are being attacked on a personal level, they are much more likely to retaliate or retreat (leading demotivation, disengagement and potentially even resignation).
Improving performance requires specific feedback and specific goal-setting; this is far more effective than making personal comments about the individual themselves, which may end in ill will.
Consider individual communication styles
It’s interesting — if not unsurprising — that Harvard Business Review claims the more confident an employee, the more receptive they are to negative feedback.
It takes courage and confidence to accept constructive appraisal. But confidence isn’t the only factor to consider when you’re tailoring your feedback approach. There’s no “one size fits all” approach to giving feedback.
The more you listen to, and learn about, the people in your team, the more you’ll be able to develop an acute sense of their way of working and communicating. One of the most effective ways of doing so, is to have an open, running dialogue with each one of your team members, in the form of 1-on-1s. Prioritizing these conversations is crucial to developing a deeper understanding of your team members.
Another way to do this, is to conduct personality tests within your organization. These can provide useful insights into how your team thinks, and how they are likely to respond to feedback. For instance, some individuals thrive from specific, detailed and thorough appraisal; others respond better to feedback that comes from a colleague with whom they have a close relationship.
However, it’s worth remembering these personality styles aren’t set in stone. Whilst they can help you better understand your colleagues, they should always be taken with a pinch of salt.
Timing is everything
Putting off negative feedback only prolongs the issue, and — unavoidably — makes your comments both less actionable and influential than if you’d spoken up at the time.
In addition to this, the longer you delay on delivering some feedback which you’re nervous about giving - just like anything else - the bigger you make the issue. You risk envisioning a conversation far more complex and unpleasant than the one you’ll actually have.
Using tools which help capture timely feedback in real-time (like Duuoo) ensures that even corrective appraisal hits home, and has the desired results you are after, as well as helping you prepare, and feel self-assured, in your role as appraiser.
Remember, feedback is a two way street
Regardless of your position within the company, everyone benefits from feedback. From temporary, support staff all the way up to CEOs and board members.
Managers who do their job well give employees honest, timely and constructive feedback. Managers who excel in their role ask for it in return.
To bring this to light, a study by Forbes concluded that teams are far more engaged (74% versus 34%) when their seniors ask for performance reviews.
And this increases incrementally. Employee engagement skyrockets, the more a manager involves themselves in the review process:
- Employee engagement at 29%, if the manager neither asks nor gives feedback
- Employee engagement at 34%, if the manager doesn’t ask, but gives feedback
- Employee engagement at 48%, if the manager asks, but doesn’t give feedback
- Employee engagement at 74%, if the manager both asks for and gives feedback
What’s more, managers who receive feedback deliver financially; achieving 8.9% greater profitability.
Do you need any more convincing?
Time to pluck up the courage to give feedback… but, as we see in the stats above, that’s only half the picture.
Is there anything better than being praised for a job well done?
We all feel it: positive reinforcement and recognition is one of the most influential ways to motivate employees. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, generally speaking, people are more comfortable taking feedback than giving it.
Nevertheless, we’ve all been on the receiving end of corrective criticism at some point in our career. And it can be a bitter pill to swallow.
Everyone from temporary support staff all the way up to board level directors need to be able to hold a mirror up to themselves; to respect, value and respond to feedback from others.
So what can you do, to develop greater courage in the face of negative appraisal?
Consider how you felt the last time you received feedback: did you clam up? Were you able to take the corrective criticism on board; how well did you trust the feedback source?
Negative physical and emotional responses to feedback tend to come from three triggers:
“That’s just plain wrong”; we feel the feedback isn’t justified based on our performance.
“Who are they to tell me that?”; we feel the feedback doesn’t come from a justified source.
“Are they saying I’m bad at my job?”; we feel undermined or personally attacked by the comments delivered. By knowing, understanding and acknowledging these triggers, you can take control of your reaction to difficult feedback.
Remember why we ask for feedback in the first place: to grow and develop. It’s nothing personal, but asking for clarification can help you understand what exactly is being asked for you moving forward.
It’s your role, as managers and leaders, to exemplify both how to give and receive feedback.
The risks of not giving or getting feedback far outweigh your fears
At the end of the day, no matter how scary feedback is, it is absolutely essential in the workplace.
Businesses grow because of feedback. And like any evolutionary force, if feedback is neglected within an organization, a number of negative consequences can reveal themselves.
Preparation is key; whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of the feedback loop. And that’s what it should be: a loop — feedback doesn’t, or shouldn’t, just flow one way!
Using a platform like Duuoo, you can prepare your feedback — whether upward or downward — by keeping real-time notes on others’ performance and goal achievement. Being prepared leads to feeling capable. And capability leads to courage.
Yes, feedback requires courage, but Duuoo can help you get there.
Get in touch with us today, to see how.