How to Give Effective Feedback
Hey everyone, this is Dr. George Birnbach. And when we read books or attend workshops or even watch videos like this on delivering leadership or management, coaching or feedback to your teams, the same concepts keep coming up.
You need to make your feedback timely, direct, actionable, context-accurate, reliably present in your culture even. And many believe that as long as the feedback is delivered often enough or directly enough, you will get an effective outcome. But you and I both know that this isn’t always true efficient or effective. Research that was publicized by the Harvard Business Review stated that many managers deliver inflated feedback unintentionally and they always believe they were more clear than the research shows that they were received to be.
Now, they often feel that they said exactly what they wanna say, but the other party didn’t get it. And in one study conducted at a multinational nonprofit, the employees perceived feedback as being more positive than the managers thought that they should. But more importantly, when the feedback became more serious or more negative, the understanding gap widened, it didn’t narrow. That is a common cognitive bias that can explain that disconnect. And it’s called the illusion of transparency.
This bias causes us to overestimate how obvious our inner world is to others. And when we think that what we’re feeling and thinking is evident to other people, we often underestimate how explicit our communication needs to be. Because of this, a mantra has emerged in communication and it is: the value of communication is measured at the other person’s ear, not at your mouth.
In other words, what you are saying does not matter at all if the person on the receiving end does not understand it. And without understanding, the feedback you’re trying to get across is necessarily ineffective. So how can you ensure the other person’s understanding, thereby ensuring the efficacy of your communication? That’s not that hard. End every management meeting with a simple seven-word question. Can you explain this back to me? Can you explain this back to me? This question prompts the recipient to summarize the conversation from their point of view and enables the deliverer to confirm that both parties are on the same page or it affords you the opportunity to make any needed clarifications before you split up and end the meeting.
At first it might feel uncomfortable, but by checking for understanding, you ensure that your feedback is good and is going to achieve the desired purpose of helping that person grow and getting your projects moved forward. This is the bottom line to almost all of these management drills. Any growth, for you, for your staff, or for your practice, any growth is always worth a temporary discomfort.
So go take this skill, stick it in the kit, and let’s go make a difference.