5 Recommendations For Giving & Receiving Effective Feedback

Giving feedback is often one of the biggest challenges for first-time leaders. In coaching sessions, they report that they find it difficult to give feedback to their team members, especially negative feedback, because "everyone in the team actually gets along well and they don't want to demotivate them". These 5 tips will show you how it is possible to use both clarity and empathy to feel more comfortable giving and receiving feedback as a first-time leader.

1. Prepare for giving and receiving effective feedback

For both positive and negative feedback, it is a good idea to take some time to prepare beforehand. Think about: What is the goal of your feedback? Do you want the employee to change or perhaps maintain a certain behaviour or mindset? When is a good time to have a calm conversation with the person? The time should still be close to the situation you want to give feedback on and at the same time it should be a good fit for both sides. Not only the timing, but also the regularity is important to consider. A good leader should discuss with his/her employees how often or in which situations they would like to receive feedback. You can ask about this in the 1:1 getting-to-know-you exchanges! 

2. Care & Curiosity Mindset

Part of the preparation is also the question: With which mindset do I want to go into the feedback conversation? Claire Lew from Know Your Team recommends going into feedback meetings with a mindset of “care & curiosity”.  Even if your employee’s behaviour has you on the edge of your seat, it helps to get into a ‘care & curiosity mindset’ before the feedback conversation as this reduces the chances of the other person reacting defensively.

3. A feedback roadmap

Instead of the famous “feedback sandwich”, which can appear very predictable and is sometimes perceived as insincere, I find that having a Care & Curiosity Mindset can also help you to directly address the issue at hand. Based on the 3 W method and that of Nonviolent Communication, the following roadmap will help you to feel well prepared and to reach your counterpart with clarity and empathy:

Intention: Start with your intention, e.g. “I would like to discuss an observation with you, because it is important to me that we work together as a team in the best way possible”. 

Perception: What specific behaviour did you see or hear? E.g. “When we spoke yesterday, you did not bring up the issue of X with our client. Today I found out from the client that you already had information about his/her problems yesterday.”  

Effect: What feelings, thoughts or behaviour did the behaviour trigger in you or in the team? E.g. “It has led to me to not being able to give the right feedback to the clients today and I feel unsure now whether I can trust your information.”

Need: Why is it important to you personally? When you share your underlying need, you help the person to understand even better why the behaviour has had this effect on you. E.g. “For me transparency within the team is important, because I think we all benefit from sharing knowledge. That’s why I wanted to discuss with you again the situation.”

Wish: Look into the future and give a suggestion or wish for a change in behaviour. As feedback conversations should also be a two-way conversation, you can also ask questions to better understand the person’s behaviour. E.g. “How come that you did not share this information?” Extra tip: Instead of asking “why”, ask “how come?” – this will lead to less defensiveness from the other person.

Next steps: Decide together on concrete actions for future situations.  You can also let the conversation sink in and do this the next day.

4. Positive feedback

The same feedback roadmap can be used for positive feedback. To make it easier for your team members to learn, it makes sense to give specific feedback instead of a general “Good job, keep it up!”.

5. Feedback from the team to you

Since feedback is ideally given in all directions, invite the team to give you feedback on your behaviour as a leader in 1:1s or a team workshop. To prepare for this, you can ask your team to come up with concrete examples beforehand and then discuss them with you along the feedback roadmap. Your task here? Listen! Take notes on questions and be open to exchange.

The more normal it becomes in the team to give each other feedback in this appreciative way, the faster situations can be clarified and feeling of openness and shared learning can be created in your team!

Would you like to feel even stronger supported in your first leadership role? Katrin now offers a new product to support first-time leaders even better: The First-Time Leaders Community; it includes a self-paced video training, regular workshops and exchange with peers, and optional individual coaching sessions. Learn more and sign up already if this could benefit you or pass it on to colleagues & friends.

photo by Lucie Greiner