When talking about feedback, we focus on the delivery. If we phrase this better, the whole conversation will get easier.
What if team members actively were asking “What could I have done better? How can I improve?”
Giving feedback is akin to giving a gift. If you walk up to a stranger on the street and hand them a wrapped box, you’re in for an awkward interaction. There’s no relationship established. This person has no idea who you are. Why in the world would they accept a gift from you?
Marching a team member into your office and “giving” them feedback can operate the same way. Why should they care what you think?
The answer is to create an environment where feedback is invited. The receiver is eager ask for your opinion.
How do you create that environment? Three easy suggestions:
Avoid jumping to conclusions. Ask questions like “What happened here?” Don’t assume you know. Build an environment based on understanding versus catching teammates doing something wrong.
Let them bring things to the table. This is a simple, effective flip. If we’re doing a performance review, I could list out areas for you to improve. Or, I could ask you to do a self-assessment and send that over before our conversation. The latter is going to be far more effective. You’re guiding the conversation, not me.
Understand them as a complete person. What makes them get out of bed in the morning? What kinds of projects do they find exciting? Build this relationship early in 1-1s. When it’s time for feedback, there’s a deeper relationship established. You have demonstrated that you care about them as a person.