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Is having an open and honest work environment important to you?

Is hearing potentially difficult-to-hear—but important—truths something that’s also important to you?

And have you ever felt like you wanted to improve how you deliver feedback to others…even if that feedback may be a bit tough for someone to hear?

If you’re nodding your head or raising your hand 🙋 to any of those questions, we’re on the same wavelength about receiving and hearing feedback…

I was at the Small Giants Summit last week in Detroit, Michigan, and Claire Lew, the CEO of Know Your Team, spoke to us about the feedback loop. (The Small Giants Summit is an annual gathering of purpose-driven, small business leaders who chose to put people before profits.)

Claire’s life’s mission is to help people become happier at work—and she knows just how important open and genuine communication is to that mission.

Here’s what I learned from her presentation.

Why Feedback Can Be Difficult to Give

First, Claire explained that yes, it can be uncomfortable, and a bit, well…unnatural for us to give feedback to others. But that doesn’t mean people don’t want to hear it.

In fact, most people we are leading or working with really, really, do want to hear feedback from us so they can continue to grow and develop.

How to Effectively Deliver Honest Feedback: What to Avoid

Although more practical advice and tips were shared than just the ones mentioned here, here are a few starter tips on ways you can deliver more effective feedback:

Avoid a sh*t sandwich. Claire explained that even research shows that the old “formula” for giving tough-to-deliver feedback actually results in people tuning out. If anything, they only hear what they want to hear. Instead of truly listening to what someone’s saying, many people recognize what you’re doing when it comes to this method of delivery. After all, the sh*t sandwich is entirely predictable, and the authenticity of the message can be entirely lost as a result, argued Claire.

Avoid publicly giving tough feedback. See a mistake during a meeting? Someone giving a little attitude in the middle of a call? Claire explained how it’s most effective to avoid giving someone difficult-to-hear feedback in a public manner. Giving feedback in a public manner (or, let’s say in an email where the whole company is CC’d) can be extremely threatening, and it can be misconstrued or damaging to a person’s confidence.

Don’t let it linger. We’re all guilty of not addressing certain behaviors when they happen. When possible, carve out a bit of time to give that feedback to someone as soon as you can after you spot the behavior that you’d like to change.

How to Effectively Deliver Honest Feedback: What to Do

Claire shared these tips to help when delivering difficult feedback:

Ask permission. It’s a delicate situation, and this helps to set the right environment.

Come from a place of care. Make sure your intention is known. We may assume others know why we are giving them feedback, but be sure you state it. Let them know you care about their development! This is a great way to cut down on defensiveness.

Be clear. Claire shared you want to get clear on what you’re observing, and what you believe could be changed for the better.

Often we forget to get specific and forget to describe the observed behaviors. Instead of talking about how you felt, for example, this might sound like, “When I saw you did…this was the impact…”

Come from a place of fallibility. The reality is that feedback is based on…well, our opinion! It’s based on our observations, so make it known that your feedback is in fact just that—an interpretation of what happened.

Often times, people are taking everything you say to heart, so this helps a person to hopefully change for the better, explained Claire.

Make sure it’s a conversation. You want to be able to have a conversation with this person.

You also want to show you’re curious and open to learning more from them. One quick way to help you do that: asking questions.

Some great questions that might help the conversation, after you’ve brought up some of the observable behaviors include:

  • What am I missing?
  • What do you think?
  • What are you seeing?
  • Is there anything we should have covered?
  • What would success have looked like?
  • What would you have liked to have seen in that scenario?
  • What’s the positive result you would have wanted to see?

“You have to remember that you cannot control the other person’s reaction when you’re [giving feedback]. You can only control yourself,” said Claire.

Come back to the eSign blog for part two where I share what I learned on how to receive honest feedback well. These are insights that can be applied to our personal and professional lives.

Want To Learn More About Small Giants in Cincinnati?

On June 21, 2019, successful business owner, author and speaker Nick Sarillo—an active Small Giants community member—will be the next leader interviewed in our Small Giants Executive Breakfast Series at Cooper Creek on business culture, entrepreneurship, leadership and customer loyalty.

As the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub and The Trust & Track Institute, his businesses serve as a great example of how living your company’s purpose and values creates a world-class culture achieving award-winning customer service, higher margins and an engaged, productive workforce.

Nick’s Pizza is one of the top ten busiest independent pizza companies in per-store sales,  and has margins nearly twice that of the average pizza restaurant. Stay up to date on the latest speakers and events by EO and Small Giants here.