Is Your Feedback Constructive?

Most managers would agree that one of the most challenging tasks for a manger is to give constructive feedback and ensure the team member take appropriate action. Effective solutions to such challenges are addressed in our Performance Appraisal Training and Leadership Training programs. The challenge is not so much in giving the feedback but in making it constructive. It is common to hear feedback that is vague and contradictory. For example: “Shyam you have put in a lot of work on this project, but I feel….” This is a classic feedback gaffe. While the first part of the sentence is an appreciation, the second part is a criticism. Feedback that uses ‘but’, ‘however’ and ‘although’ mostly evoke mixed feelings and spoils the chances of taking corrective actions. So, how does one really give constructive feedback?
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark
Effective Leadership involves understanding why people resist critical feedback. It is then, lot easier to give constructive feedback. Neuroscientists have found that our brain is designed to resist negative feedback. Our brain acts as a defense mechanism and protects us from threats to our ego and self-esteem.
The main objective of performance appraisal is to help people grow and develop. So create an environment of discovery where people discover their areas of improvement. Here are few steps that can help you give constructive feedback, especially during performance appraisals.
Be in control of your own emotions. This will help in giving feedback that does not come across as a threat.
1. Prepare the recipient’s mind for feedback. It is important here to understand the science behind resistance to negative feedback. The amygdala, a very small part of the brain near the thalamus, hijacks the rational brain as it senses danger and triggers the fight, flight or freeze response. In order for the recipient not to perceive danger, it is important for the person to get the permission from the recipient to give the feedback. This prepares the mind to receive the information without being threatened.
2. Use the technique of feed-forward in your performance dialogue. Before giving feedback ask the recipient these questions:
1. What are your thoughts on how you handled the situation?
2. What did you do well?
3. What could you have done better?
Responding to questions help them overcome amygdala hijack and gets the pre-frontal neo-cortex, the thinking part of the brain, to respond. This ensures that they are now ready for feedback.
4. The feedback should focus only on the area that needs improvement and not on the person. Avoid judgmental language and display empathy with the body language and tone of voice that shows concern. It is important to avoid sarcasm while giving feedback.
5. End the feedback with a mutually agreed upon action plan. Here again, it is important to allow the recipient to design his own action plan as he/she has to own it and commit to the actions. The person giving feedback can ask questions that will enable the recipient to explore various options.
Managers will lead teams more adroitly only if they realize that an open mind is a must for receiving constructive feedback; the objective being, to create an opportunity for people to improve and grow.Understanding the brain science of constructive feedback will help people move seamlessly from a state of impasse to a state of insight. David Rock, in his article, ‘Managing with the Brain in Mind’ explains this with great thoroughness. Being insightful allows effective action planning. Implementing the action plan extensively, forms a habit. Giving constructive feedback is an integral part of our Leadership Training program to ensure their team cultivates productive habits.
For more such interesting articles please see the link below:

Empathy – A Necessary Trait

Shifting Limiting Mindsets – A Leadership Essential

Authenticity – A Leadership Essential

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