Sunday, April 13, 2008

Five Easy Ways to Break Down Feedback Barriers

The two major reasons people do not give effective feedback are lack of time and lack of comfort. Listed here are five easy ways to confront these barriers head on.

Barrier: “I do not have enough time to give feedback on a regular basis.”

Solution #1: Schedule one-on-one development sessions with each of your team members at the beginning of the year. Once the meetings are on the calendar, you won’t have a ‘fit’ issue. A reasonable schedule of meetings might be either:
· Four 1-hour sessions with each team member. That’s only one hour every three months to have an open and candid dialogue about development. Or:
· Six ½-hour sessions with each team member. Making sure you meet individually with each of your employees does not have to be complicated, lengthy or formal. Just a quick session will provide you and your team members with valuable information sharing relative to development goals.

TIP: Incorporate an occasional meeting into a coffee break or lunch hour to be even more efficient and relaxed.

Solution #2: Work with your team members to set expectations about when, how much, and in what format. Guess what? Your employees are just as busy as you are. So acknowledge that fact together and explore ways to meet each other’s expectations about giving and receiving feedback. Remember, feedback can take many forms and does not need to be a forced fit. The goal is to do better than you are today. Integrate your feedback into the accepted communication methods that work best for your organization. If electronic communication is the norm, provide e-mail updates to track development progress on a more regular basis.

Barrier: “I am uncomfortable talking about personal development.”

Solution #3: Work your way up to it. Everyone is in a different place on the continuum of giving and receiving feedback. If you know you struggle with this issue, take it in small steps. If regular face-to-face sessions seem extremely uncomfortable, consider phone, voice mail and e-mail as a supplement for sharing positive feedback. Although these should not replace face-to-face conversations, if you are currently doing little or nothing outside of annual reviews, your leaders will appreciate any attempt you make to connect on a developmental level. It is perfectly appropriate to recognize someone’s improved or outstanding behavior through a voice mail or e-mail. Once you have gotten comfortable sharing this type of information on a regular basis, doing it face-to-face will seem less uncomfortable. NOTE: Difficult or negative behavioral issues should not be addressed by these methods. It is important in these situations to utilize face-to-face methods (or at least a live phone conversation) whenever possible. See Tough Feedback Tips posts for more on this topic.

Solution #4: Let individuals know you struggle with this issue. The truth really can set you free! Your discomfort or avoidance might be creating a perception of you as arrogant, unapproachable, insincere, or uninterested, and team members may take your behavior personally. By letting your employees know this is a challenge area for you, it will shift these perceptions immediately. Your employees will appreciate your candidness and together you can set expectations about giving and receiving feedback that is acceptable and comfortable to both of you.

Solution #5: Get to know the people who work for you. You might be surprised at how little we know about the people who work for us– No wonder it is hard to give feedback! Consider developing more substantial professional relationships with your leaders, outside of giving feedback.
· Eat lunch together occasionally and find out about family, hobbies, pets, etc.
· Share information about holiday traditions and other celebrations

By taking a real interest in your leaders as people, you get to know them, and as a result, sharing developmental feedback becomes more natural, more sincere, more open and trusting, and more meaningful.

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