Thursday, 7 January 2010

We all suck at Feedbacks - Part 3.1/4 - How to give Feedback that can be unpleasant

The beauty of this word starting with F (Feedback) is you cannot start it with a F word.This part of the statement is the most tricky and sensitive. All the time in Managers life he has to give negative feedback to everyone.. honestly it is not negative feedback it is the feedback that will not be pleasant to hear... A Call centre manager is walking by and hears a angry Customer Service representative blasting the customer or agitating the customer... the next thing he does is blasts the CS representative immediately after the call... what good does it do to him ? the Team?.

I went to a shopping mall last weekend, While my wife did all the shopping part I took a seat in the corner watching people, I saw a old lady looking for a bed linen where a sales rep was helping her. The sales rep initially showed interest, but when he saw her not being able to make a decision got agitated and reacted a bit rudely. His supervisor was watching all this and he stepped in had a chat pleasantly with the lady and tried to bring the lady to consensus and sold the work she was looking for. After the lady was gone he smiled at the rep and told him... "We will always have bad customers, they will come buy and go. What will remain is the reputation we hold. Now next time you get an angry/painful customer like this think that she is your childhood crush you never got a chance with.. I am sure you will serve better"

Inspiring... I liked the innovative way of feedback... What I liked about it was it had patience, place , perfection and politeness. Those P's that can make the F' better.

So what is it that we have to take care while we give a negative or not so pleasant feedback?

1. Place it well
Yes the place acts very important in the feedback sessions, specially when it is unpleasant... no one in the world wants to listen bad things about himself, secondly not in front of others. Make sure that when you have to give a feedback, give it in a private place.. it should be between those 2 souls and no one else. Find a right place to let the person know about the unpleasant things... so even if it gets worse it remains in there.

2. Point it well

Its very important to point it well. Again I prefer taking a profile book of incidents to support the unpleasant thing. You cannot just go and say "You miss all deliveries" you have to mention which item, which specific delivery and when. Be very specific to point on what you think about the incident too. This will help the person get your perspective about it...

A Manager once gave a feedback to his subordinate "The Management thinks that you are not capable or ready yet to take up this role" The guy went back, tried to figure out why , when , how asked the same questions to the manager.. he did not get an answer he Quit... if the feedback is not specific it is a disaster.

3. No place to emotions
Your emotions have no place in the feedback part. There is nothing worse than a angry, agitated, shouting and yelling manager giving a feedback. Be calm while you speak the feedback. Remember after all it is all about improvement.

4. Person is not the key, Action is
Feedbacks can get personal, A manager not happy about the attitude of the employee can take it personally while giving the feedback. He may pour only the personal perception and leave the public perception of the employee in due course. Ensure that when feedback is given it is given about actions and not person. Its ugly when a Manager says "You are not committed to the task" than he saying "We find you committed always, but for this particular task you missed the nerve"

5. Time it well

Run it instant. This will help you discuss the feedback more effectively. Any delay in giving a feedback on a unpleasant or negative action may turn disastrous in long run. Try and provide a quick if required short feedback but instantly for unpleasant actions.

6. Define actions
If it is the first time about something make sure you list down action items from the feedback. Try to create a check list and summarize and agree upon the actions when you close the feedback. If it is a repeated item on feedback then document it and make the consequences clear.. Yes politely. A developer who was a cricket fan was somehow not able to get hold of the pressure in development. Technically good he was still struggling with some or the other items.. after repetitive instructions the developer was not able to perform well when the Manager gave him a message "If you are a captain of the cricket Team, what will you do if some player consistently does not score? and while others are sitting on the bench to play the game? " He got the message and he listed down the actions he would work on.
7. Speak, Wait , Listen , Speak
Speak and wait to listen what other person have to say about it. At times ask the person to speak about it. Try to get a valuable input out. make it as a discussion not a lecture.
8. Trust
Build trust by re-emphasising that your faith still lies and you would want to get better results out of the actions defined. If you show your trust , it goes well.

9. Finish it there and follow it later
End it well. Try to emphasize on the objectives and make sure that you leave the feedback there. The items discussed in the feedback should not be discussed , just the action items derived should be followed up. keeping things about feedback in mind may cause unhealthy expectations and cold wars.

Of all these things.. remember you can use your sense of humour to give the unpleasant feedback wrapped in a pack of jokes and humor.

Dont forget that the objective of the feedback is to re-achieve well what we could not do for any reasons. We as managers have to make sure that when we come out of a discussion where the feedback about someone , something was unpleasant we have a plan to make it better.