Central to the discussion on feedback is communication. Without appreciating communication as a powerful tool to leadership, feedback will become unilateral and probably without value. In other words, feedbacking is a two-way street. It involves sharing, listening and action. Feedbacking obviously goes through the communication process. An intent must be expressed. That expression must be received. An interpretation must be obtained, to allow for a feedback in a bid to create a new intention for the process to continue (Hughes et al, 2015). Feedbacking is a leadership tool often consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously ignored by leaders. One great skill that makes a better leader is to learn the art of feedbacking. At workplaces, good leaders go to the extent of applying the 360 degrees double-loop feedback tool which involves soliciting views from colleagues: top, down, side and side and also from customers and even suppliers.
“Use the Sandwich approach!”
Narrowing the discussion, however, most leaders find themselves entangled in webs when giving feedback (Tracy, 2016). To give progressive effective feedback, use the sandwich approach. Corporate trainers, leadership gurus, and many authors sum the approach as PSP: Praise. Share. Praise. In effect, be nice, be mean and be nice again. Interesting, right? Unfortunately, many leaders have not developed the skill to apply themselves to great feedbacking process and they may never learn. To use the sandwich approach especially in a one-on-one feedbacking process, always remember that feedbacking respects the communication process. Start with a Praise. Find something specific about the recipient that makes him or her feel good about himself or herself or praise the person about something that he or she has done that is worth noting. Do this right at the beginning of the meeting so as to elevate the positives in the person. A leader must inspire confidence to start a good feedbacking process. When the recipient is elevated to the level to receive, then you can Share. In sharing, be clear about the purpose while choosing an appropriate context and medium for sharing. Send appropriate nonverbal signals and be specific about the issue or issues to be discussed in a coherent manner.
Use analogies if you can. A good leader must try to perceive emotional signals from the recipient and must also be intelligent emotionally to interpret the feelings and thoughts of recipients as well. In sharing, leaders must be clear and unemotional about recipients so as to deal with behaviors and not to develop any form of animosity for anyone. Avoid inferences and give timely and descriptive feedback. Be humanly flexible and be very assertive in providing feedback. Avoid phrases like ‘Kojo, people are saying that you don’t offer your best on the job’ but rather use the three P’s of assertiveness: positive, personal and present to rephrase the sentence to say that ‘Kojo, I have been observing you and also monitoring your growth. You are such a great guy and your contribution to the installation of our new software was awesome. On a whole, my findings reveal that you are working under your capacity and thus you are not bringing your best to the job. If you could increase your performance by only 35%, I bet you are on your way to becoming the next best Finance Manager. I’m always there to provide support and leadership if you need me’.
This feedback is precise, concise and inspiring. The sandwich approach works. Praise. Share. Praise.
Next week we’ll discuss a practical approach on how to give feedback to a difficult (actually a special) recipient.
This is Leadership!