04 Jun Giving Feedback: How to ensure it’s acted on!

When you give feedback, do people act on it? Do they welcome it? Do they do more of the things that go well? Do they adapt their behaviours to do less of the things that aren’t so helpful?

There have been many situations when I’ve had the type of ‘feedback’ that goes along the lines of “Well done, that was great”. Without doubt, each and every time I’ve had that ‘feedback’, it’s given me a warm glow and I’ve felt good about myself. Yet, at the same time, it also felt unsatisfactory somehow.

Conversely, there have also been times (although thankfully fewer!) when I’ve had ‘feedback’ such as “That didn’t go very well” which left me feeling rather deflated yet still with the same feeling of dissatisfaction.

How many times have you been in one or other of these situations where you’ve felt slightly dissatisfied by the ‘feedback’ you’ve received?

Do you need to think about the way you give feedback?

So, how do you give feedback so that people can act upon it? How do you create a culture where it’s OK to let others know the impact of their actions and how do you give that feedback, especially to managers, so that it isn’t career limiting?

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To give feedback that people can act on takes thought and energy. The starting point for me is the 2nd Habit from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin With The End in Mind. This holds true for any communication you’re having, with anybody, anywhere, any time! Ask yourself the question “What do I want this person to do as a result of my feedback?”

So, to help me prepare and provide feedback, I use a three point structure which never lets me down. It gives me focus and removes subjectivity. The structure is memorable, simple to use and ensures the feedback is specific.

(When introducing this structure on our Performance Management courses, we refer to it as “Giving Feedback with a Beer” although it’s spelt BIR!)

BIR

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Behaviour

Describe the behaviour that you want to give feedback on, with examples. It is important to focus on behaviour that the person can change.

"When you summarised the actions during our progress meeting last week…. "
"When you hand in your expenses claims after the cut off date…."

Impact

Talk about the impact that the behaviour has had. It may be the impact on you, the team, or a specific piece of work.

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"When you summarised the actions during our progress meeting last week, I noticed that everyone was clear about the actions that they were taking on …."

"When you hand in your expenses claims after the cut off date, it means that I can’t process and sign off all of the claims on time so everyone has to wait an extra 4 weeks to be reimbursed …."

Reinforce/Remedy

Finally, explain what you would like reinforced (for positive feedback) or remedied (for developmental feedback).

"When you summarised the actions during our progress meeting last week, I noticed that everyone was clear about the actions that they were taking on so I would like you to continue to do this at our weekly team meetings."

"When you hand in your expenses claims after the cut off date, it means that I can’t process and sign off all of the claims on time so everyone has to wait an extra 4 weeks to be reimbursed. Going forward, I’d like you to hand in your claim by 29th of the month."

During this third stage, it is important to get acceptance and buy-in. Involve the individual in how they might remedy or reinforce by asking open questions to establish how they are going to achieve this and clarifying what support they may need from you. For example: How do you feel about this? What support might you need? How are we going to ensure this happens? How will we know if you’ve been successful?

I use BIR all the time when giving feedback, as it helps me to both plan and deliver feedback that’s remembered and acted upon. In my experience, it also leaves the person who was on the receiving end of it clear about what they need to do more or less of and motivated to act!

What do you do to ensure that the feedback you give is received and acted upon? I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas, so please leave a comment below.

Look out for next month’s blog on Non Verbal Communication.

Posted by Caroline Lewis

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