“How Emotionally Intelligent People Give Negative Feedback” by Melinda Zetlin, Inc. Magazine, 9/21/17.
…”Giving someone effective feedback is one of the most difficult things for people to do well,” says executive coach and bestselling author Wendy Capland. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with Capland as my coach and writing aboutwhat I’ve learned in the process…
1. Don’t do it too soon, or too late.
How soon after a problem arises should you give feedback? That depends in part on your own mental state, Capland says. “Some people–this is me–if it’s really loaded emotionally, it’s better to sleep on it overnight. It’s also helpful for me to write out the dialogue ahead of time so my emotions stay at bay and I can be as effective as I want to be.”
…You should probably wait no later than that, though. “The longer you wait, the less effective it will be because they won’t remember it to the same degree. It won’t be fresh in their minds.”
2. Ask permission first.
“Start by asking for permission to give the feedback,” she advises. “‘Could I share an observation?’ ‘Could we talk about what just happened in the meeting?'” You should ask permission, she says, even before giving feedback to someone who reports to you. “Otherwise they’re not open to hearing.”
What if you ask to give feedback and the other person says no? “You shut up,” Capland advises. “The reason you give feedback is to create behavior change. That’s the only reason. You cannot coach someone who is not coachable.”
3. Share your understanding of the situation and ask for theirs.
As the person initiating feedback, you go first, Capland says. “My understanding was we would have something by October 1. It’s now October 15, so I’m wondering what happened. Was that your understanding?”
It’s important, she adds, to be careful to avoid blaming the other person throughout the conversation. “My rule is that if it’s possible to put ‘…you idot!’ at the end of a phrase or a sentence, then you’re blaming,” she says.
4. Say how their behavior made you feel.
It’s important to include both elements, Capland says, not only how you felt but also the specific behavior that made you feel that way. “‘I didn’t feel supported in the meeting when so-and-so said X. You kept quiet and I thought we were in agreement that you would back me up…'”
5. Explain what consequences it had.
It’s important to tell others that their actions (or inactions) had consequences and exactly what those consequences are. “‘When you submitted the proposal past the deadline, it caused the following cascade of effects,’ or ‘We lost the discount we had with that vendor,’ or ‘My boss reamed me out.'” The other person may not be aware what the ramifications are of their behavior.
6. Ask how things will be different next time.
You probably know exactly what the other person must do to correct the problem in the future. But resist the temptation to say so at least at first, Capland advises. “Start by saying, ‘I’d like to have this be different next time,'” she suggests. “Before I say what I’d like to see, I ask them first: ‘How can you make sure we don’t get in this situation again? What will you do differently next time?'”