Giving and receiving feedback - part 2
The very essence of feedback requires pointing out where people are not doing things well, and thus requires a considered approach, says Limitless Director, Tim Alford.
This is the second article on the subject of giving and receiving feedback. Missed part 1? Read it here.
A wise woman once told me, “Tim, you’re more of a Harley Davidson than a bus.” At first, I thought it was a compliment, but as it turned out… not so much!
She went on, explaining, “you go really far, really fast, but you don’t take many people with you.”
I know, right? Shots fired! But here’s the thing, the whole of my leadership altered because of that one piece of feedback. I stopped trying to do things as fast as I could and started involving as many people as I could. I stepped away from opportunities I enjoyed in order to create more opportunities for the people that I lead.
My leadership became less about what I could achieve, and more about what I could inspire others to achieve. And all because of one piece of insightful, constructive feedback. Just imagine how comparatively deficient my leadership would be today had she not found the courage to say it as it is.
When we shy away from offering regular, thoughtful, constructive feedback, we actually rob people of the opportunity to grow. And as such, the art of learning to give good feedback is a must for every leader who wants to be a launchpad for people to jump off, rather than a ceiling they can’t break through.
And yet, giving feedback is an inherently delicate matter. The very essence of feedback requires pointing out where people are not doing things well, and thus requires a considered approach. So how do we give helpful and effective feedback?
FIVE KEYS TO GIVING EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK
A wise man once told me, “trust is the currency of change.” He was right. Before you can expect your feedback to be well received, the person you are giving the feedback to must trust you in two ways. First, they must believe that you genuinely have their best interests and personal growth at heart. Second, they must believe that you know what you’re talking about!
In formulaic terms: Demonstrated Integrity (over time) + Demonstrated Competency (over time) = Trust. And like Rome, trust isn’t built in a day! So take time to get to know the people you lead. Take a genuine interest in their lives. Demonstrate your love and care for them. Then you will engender the kind of trust that will permit you to speak into their lives.
CREATE A CULTURE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Here’s the key: Never let anyone do anything good without pointing it out. Wherever you see a positive behaviour, an extra-mile effort, or a demonstration of competency, celebrate it! Celebrate it publicly if you can. Point out how great it was in front of everybody.
And be specific. Don’t just say, “you did well tonight,” say, “you did well tonight because…” Good feedback never starts with what needs to be improved, because continually being told what to do better is exhausting and demotivating. Good feedback thrives in a culture of encouragement.
NOT JUST WHAT, HOW
When the time comes to offer suggestions for change, be careful to not only point out what needs to change. Always ensure that the what is always accompanied by a how. So we don’t just say, “You need to improve your youth talks,” we say, “I think we could work a little on your talk introductions. Why don’t you try opening with a funny story instead of going straight into the Bible passage next time.”
See the difference? Feedback without follow up is like telling someone to climb a mountain with no equipment. When we point out an area for improvement we must ensure we give them the tools they need to make that change.
CREATE A CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Even when we’ve built trust, offered encouragement and suggested pathways for improvement, feedback can still be fruitless without this often forgotten principle: It is the leader's responsibility to hold the person to account for the changes they have agreed upon. So let’s say you have a team member who always shows up late. You challenged them on their punctuality and have agreed on steps forward. Then they show up late for the next session. So like a good leader you pull them aside and challenge them. They apologise… and turn up late again next time.
So you tell your friends, the other team members, your spouse, your boss - everyone but them! And I get that, no one likes to nag. But without continual, consistent accountability, ingrained behaviours are very unlikely to change. Giving feedback is just the start, accountability is where the real change happens.
Remember, when we fail to give feedback we rob those we lead the opportunity to grow. For most of us, giving effective feedback isn’t natural or comfortable, but it is essential. So apply these principals and create a healthy rhythm of giving and receiving feedback in your ministry.
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