One of Dale Carnegie's books which I've not yet read is "The leader in you" but I'll get around to it these days. Among the stories, one in particular caught my attention: the one about Charles Schwab who was paid 1 million dollars per year and he said that most of that money came from his ability to understand people. The story can also be found in the book "Secrets of success", by the same author. It wasn't the fabulous salary that caught my attention, but the fact that at one point Mr. Schwab found his colleagues smoking right next to the "No smoking" sign. Instead of telling them that what they were doing was wrong, he talked with them as if nothing ever happened. When their conversation was over, he offered them some cigarettes and with a glee in his eye, he said: "Guys, I'd be happy if you'd smoke these outside!"
One of the best instruments available to us when communicating with those around us is the mighty feedback. This is where most of the times the line is drawn between a leader and a boss, when talking about being part of a team.
WHAT is feedback? Feedback is a message which comes as an answer to information relayed throughout the communication.
WHAT is the purpose of feedback? To answer to, to improve, to change a behavior or a situation. This happens when people feel motivated and/or they find purpose in making a change. If we use the story above as an example, what do you think? Where did the group smokes the cigarettes next time?
Being a direct person, a lot of my feedback was direct also. After I've learned on the job what proper feedback is, from the point of view of someone whom you are trying to help in their development, the organization which greatly helped me grow in this regard, was Toastmasters. Here, the second thing that you get to own after public speaking is the way in which you relay feedback, as part of the leadership focus from the educational program.
Every speech gets an assessment, which is actually an improvised 3-minute speech under the guise of an organized process. In this time, you are required to motivated, but also to help the person grow - which means that in the constructive area you need to provide how future speeches can be improved. Below, I will write a few training tips which I've learned from Toastmasters training modules and also from my professional life as a trainer in a corporation.
HOW we give feedback:
1. If not explicitly requested, ask for permission before giving feedback. People are known for being more open when you are not trampling over them.
2. Make sure you understand what is asked of you, not what you think is asked based on your personal interpretation (here you can apply the abilities we've covered in the "Active listening" chapter)
3. Focus on the process, ability, activity, situation, and not on the person.
4. Provide solutions or methods through which change can be achieved.
5. Be specific, short, on point and keep focus on the subject.
6. Feedback is and will always be subjective - because that is your opinion/reaction in regards to a third party, so don't use phrases like "everyone noticed", " our colleagues say", " we think that" etc.
7. Don't judge.
8. Don't use words like "you've done", "you're guilty of", "you have to", "you need to", "never", "always", "all the time".
A few feedback samples are:
What I SAW, what I FELT, what I HEARD
What I LIKED, what and how you CAN IMPROVE, what I LOVED
WHEN... it happens, I FEEL that..., BECAUSE..., WHAT I THINK is..., I WOULD PREFER...
They way in which we give and receive feedback is a very important part of our development as people, but also those around us. There are cases in which the coaching version, based more on questions and answers that the other person has upon them can be more efficient. Or sometimes is best to use feed-forward only.
Lastly, I'll tell you that it is important to keep in mind WHERE you give feedback because in Toastmasters, the way in which the educational program and the meetings are set up, creates the ideal environment for giving feedback, it is not in every organization that people are ready and/or willing to receive a reply. And because we've started with leadership, I'll finish up with a piece of advice which helped out a lot over the years:
"Praise publicly, critique privately!"