The subject of feedback in the world of leadership has become a hot topic again. People are struggling on how to give it, and how to receive it. With all of the performance management issues that have surfaced since last summer and appear to be continuing in 2015, I thought today I would share with you some writing I did on this subject back in the late 1980’s in the book, Listen To The Heart. Here goes:
When working out specific situations with others, there come moments when we have to give feedback. The key is to be issue-specific at all times. When giving feedback, it is important to describe other people’s behavior or feelings without evaluating or interpreting them. It also is helpful to share ideas and information rather than advice. If this pathway is followed, the receiver of the feedback is free to decide in light of his or her own goals in this particular situation how to integrate this new information.
Often individuals in conflict bring up all sorts of issues unconnected to the actual situation before them. This style of feedback is called “dumping” or “gunny-sacking.” In simple terms, there is an unloading of everything upon another individual. While the unloading process may feel wonderful, the information that the recipient can use is limited. The most helpful feedback focuses on the amount the recipient can use, not the amount the giver can offer.
Next, it is important to state the feedback in a direct manner by using first-person-singular pronouns - “I” or “my.” By owning our statements and eliminating the royal “we” or elusive “one,” we make it clear that the feedback is ours. We are being honest with others, and direct.
Also, we need to recognize that the reception of feedback takes time to process. To help with the assimilation of new information, I have learned a very helpful technique. In my wife’s family, important statements are often prefaced with the words “I have a message for you.” When I first heard this statement, I did not understand the level of importance of the message that was to follow; in my childhood family, those words implied that someone had telephoned and you were about to get a synopsis of what he or she had said so you could call back. I got myself into some pretty hot situations with my wife until I learned the importance of those words.
Now, my wife and I use this phrase as a sign that feedback is about to begin. In simple terms it is a “flag phrase” that means “something important is about to be said; sit down and apply all your focus to the message.” By teaching those you live and work with that the phrase “I have a message” is a signal for feedback, you are helping them and yourself to improve the reception and integration of significant information.
From Listen to the Heart The Transformational Pathway to Health and Wellness by Geery Howe published back in 1991. For more information about the book, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/Listen-to-the-Heart.html