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Home » Blog » The Feedback Formula for Leaders: Do you struggle to provide effective feedback

Communicating as a leader is never easy.

Communication and leadership are inextricably linked. If the two ever split, efforts, organisations, and vision become survivors trying to make a living in a dysfunctional setting.

More leaders are clobbered by one aspect of communication than any other. And that is giving feedback to the people they supervise. It’s a challenging terrain to navigate. There are numerous extremes and variations of feedback, ranging from the enraged boss who is impossible to please to the leader who gives no feedback at all. One side of this important coin is comprehending and appreciating the value and significance. The other side is genuinely comprehending how to use criticism and suggestions as a method for correcting and empowering those you lead.

When someone at work tells us something about ourselves that we don’t want to hear or goes against our preconceived notions about ourselves, we’re not likely to listen. In fact, it has the potential to destroy the relationship. The following are the four fears associated with feedback that were identified:

  • Fear of conflict
  • Fear of de-motivation
  • Fear of personal rejection
  • Fear of negative public backlash

Understand that different feedback has different effects on people.

The first step in providing proper feedback is to understand what it is. The best description that aptly frames the concept of feedback is Kevin Eikenberrry’s Four Types of Feedback Model. His model breaks feedback into four distinct categories:

  1. Negative feedback: Corrective comments about past behavior. Feedback based on the things that didn’t go well.
  2. Positive feedback: Affirming comments about past behavior. Feedback based on the things that went well and should be repeated.
  3. Negative feedforward: Corrective comments about future behavior. Feedback based on things that shouldn’t be repeated in the future.
  4. Positive feedforward: affirming comments about future behavior. Feedback based on things that would improve future performance.

His strategy helps leaders to strike a balance between constructive and negative feedback, with a focus on offering suggestions for potential improvement. Focusing on the future or feedforward is the primary aspect that is largely absent from most leaders’ feedback repertoire.

The aim of feedback should be to help those you lead understand what worked and what didn’t, and how they can move forward without repeating negative behaviours. It’s not enough to only offer negative–or even positive–feedback. Feedback can be used to educate, improve, and propel people forward. Feedback that does not achieve this goal is unsuccessful.

Balance between Negative and Positive Feedback

The approach to constructive feedback is to balance both positive and negative aspects in it, rather than skipping negative feedback.

According to Christine Porath and Christine Pearson’s study, many workers believe they have been subjected to workplace incivility, such as unnecessarily harsh criticism from their supervisor. According to their findings, almost half of these workers choose to reduce their productivity on purpose.

In another study named, Experience Mood Sampling and How it Correlates at Work, it was found that “ The relationship between negative events and mood was approximately five times stronger than that between positive events and mood, even though positive events were reported three to five times more frequently than negative events. Hedonic tone was positively related to engaging in work withdrawal and negatively related to engaging in work tasks.”

Their results showed that employees reacted to a negative interaction with their boss six times more strongly than they reacted to a positive interaction with their boss. This suggests that negative feedback can have significant adverse effects on an employee’s well-being — and, presumably, their productivity.

Employees responded six times more strongly to a negative interaction with their boss than they did to a positive interaction with their boss, according to their research. Negative feedback, it seems, may have a substantial negative impact on an employee’s well-being — and, potentially, efficiency.

Let’s move on to the “how” of getting input now that we have a good picture of what balanced feedback looks like. Blanket praise, which is ambiguous and insincere, is one of the most ineffective and insincere types of feedback. Everyone understands that a leader should say things like “nice job team!” and be positive, but feedback should never feel like a “check the box” exercise.

Here are a few things to think about when giving balanced, yet feedforward-oriented feedback:

1. Ensure that the feedback is objective rather than emotional.

This is particularly important when dealing with major errors. It’s important to take some time to relax, cool down, assess the situation, and carefully choose your terms. Attempt to take a step back from the situation and look at it objectively. You want to provide useful, actionable feedback that helps the team grow.

2. Focus on actions rather than people or teams.

Personality clashes are unavoidable in human interactions. You may not like everyone on your team as a boss, but you should respect and trust them nevertheless. Allowing personal emotions and desires to cloud your judgement and lead you to criticise someone’s personality or character is not a good idea. Make sure the feedback is always genuine, and that it is intended to promote positive change rather than cause damage.

3. Provide balanced feedback and always reinforce good attitudes that you want to see replicated.

Often strive to strike a balance between the negative and the positive. If you offer too much negative feedback or feedforward, your followers will become disillusioned and believe you are never happy. Be sure to provide clear and repeatable habits while providing constructive feedback.

Using the 70 percent rule when giving positive feedback. If you have 70 percent negative feedback that focuses on what needs to be done, make sure you have 30 percent positive feedback.

4. Offer recommendations and advice on how results can be changed in the future while providing negative feedback.

We’ve established that giving negative feedback is necessary for growth; however, pointing out flaws without offering suggestions for improvement can make your team feel hopeless. When an employee, for example, is continually interrupting and cutting people off in meetings, tell them what they’re doing and how it’s affecting others. Then, instead of cutting them off in the middle of a sentence, provide feedback about how they can change their behaviour, such as signaling/gesturing that they have something to say and would like to talk after their cohort has finished speaking.

5. Teach the team how to use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses by focusing on their strengths.

Positive feedforward can be used to combat negative feedback. If someone is consistently late to meetings and the meetings are unable to start on time, run over, or information needs to be repeated, remind them that punctuality is vital to the team’s effectiveness. You should then give them a role that utilises one of their strengths and allows them to arrive early for the meeting, such as setting up the meeting room, taking minutes, moderating the meeting, or calling the meeting to order.

6. Have a conversation rather than a monologue.

The dialogue would be more successful if it is more intimate and engaging. Make it clear to your team that you care for them and are invested in their success. Encourage them to take part in the feedback process and look for ways to boost their results and shore up poor areas. Assist them in taking responsibility for their own success. Talk to them rather than to them. Simply repeating the message would not have the same impact as engaging in constructive conversation–rather than a lecture or monologue.

7. When it comes to giving feedback, timing is crucial.

The most effective leaders know when to talk and when to remain silent. Positive or negative feedback that is well-framed, tailored, and delivered at the right time will make or break your team. You should never kick a man who is down–but you also shouldn’t step over him and continue walking. To be a successful leader, you must be able to determine the best time and place to provide feedback.

It’s not about you, your views, your positions, or your situations as a leader when it comes to communication. It’s all about assisting people. It’s your responsibility to provide advice that meets needs, listen to concerns, and add value to your team’s environment. It’s all about moving them forward, picking them up and carrying them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Communicating as a leader never easy?

Communicating as a leader is never easy because when someone at work tells us something about ourselves that we don’t want to hear or goes against our preconceived notions about ourselves, we’re not likely to listen. In fact, it has the potential to destroy the relationship.

What is positive feedback?

Positive feedback focuses on the strength and they are affirming comments about past behavior or action. Positive feedback based on the things that went well and should be repeated.

What is negative feedback?

Negative feedback focuses on our weaknesses. They are corrective comments about future behavior. Negative feedback based on things that shouldn’t be repeated in the future.

What are the different types of feedback according to Kevin Eikenberrry’s Feedback Model?

The four different types of feedback according to Kevin Eikenberrry’s Types of Feedback Model are:

  • Negative feedback
  • Positive feedback
  • Negative feedforward
  • Positive feedforward

How should we give effective feedback?

An effective feedback should be balanced feedback. Both positive and negative feedback should be incorporated. The best approach is to correct with praise.