Giving feedback is an art. It doesn’t just involve sharing information about what went well and what didn’t. It’s a learning conversation. The practice of sharing feedback not only calls for courage, but also compassion. This article is all about building that finesse, to exponentially increase your impact as a mentor.

The secret to giving feedback lies in its authenticity. It should feel like it is coming from a trusted supporter, as opposed to a rival. This feels simple when sharing appreciation but the plot thickens when it’s time for constructive feedback. But it is universal knowledge that all kind of feedback is crucial to learning. Then, how can leaders make these conversations energizing?

Let’s look at making both appreciative, as well as constructive feedback more compelling.

Behavior analysts say that just praising employees is not enough to unlock their complete potential. Solely reinforcing people’s intelligence, abilities and talents, gradually limits them. It backfires, because people may stay in their comfort zones by playing to their strengths, and experience deep disappointment when they hit a setback. They might get defensive, because in their minds they knew it all, leaving little room for growth. In such scenarios, the onus is on the leaders to validate their employees for the manner in which they go about completion of a goal, while understanding their strengths. Observations like the ones listed below, will enable you to do exactly that:

  1. How persistent were people, when the prototype of a product failed?
  2. What kind of team spirit did they display?
  3. What new insight did they have about the project, and how did they use it?
  4. How innovative did they get with strategies for success?

As you might have guessed, what takes priority is how your colleagues work on a task, irrespective of the end result. When outcomes aren’t as expected, your team can always revisit the process followed for the task, to be successful.

With respect to constructive feedback, we understand it can feel difficult at times. But this difficulty can translate into your anxious energy, or inability to articulate information. Your colleagues will then mirror that. We have four effective steps that’ll help you deliver feedback like the gift it is meant to be.

Step 1: Feedback is all about investing in your colleague’s success. It’s not about your personal triggers. That is something you need to ensure. It’s okay for you to be upset over failure. But before sharing feedback, check if there are any emotions clouding your perception of the situation. Are you being objective? Does your feedback reflect the values of a growth mindset? Be an ally!

Step 2: Start the feedback by setting a context of support for your colleague’s work, and begin with what you like most about their performance. Refer to the suggestions for appreciative feedback mentioned above, for maximum impact.

Step 3: Describe the behavior you are referring to. This would make it objective. Instead of saying “You are not a team-player”, try something like “When you were late for your team’s presentation by an hour, someone else had to present your part. Your team did not feel supported, as a result”. Using words like “think” and “feel” demonstrate that you not assuming the truth.

Step 4: Now you need to enquire about how the feedback landed. This is the time to shift from speaking to listening. Ask your colleagues what they think about the feedback, and what their version of the event is. Or if there is something they would like to clarify. It is also useful to ask how they might use the information you shared.

We call feedback a gift, because it is a unique balance between celebration of an individual’s current success, and possibilities of their future achievements through growth. As a leader, you hold that larger vision. Hence with you sharing the right feedback, much magic is waiting to happen.

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