Delivering difficult feedback with grace is one of the hardest things a female leader can do and is the most necessary. In general, many women when delivering feedback sound angry, judgmental, or attacking. It could be the tone of their voice or the look on their face, but whatever it is, it’s not good. Others can’t quite say what they need to say, leaving the team member fuzzy about what really took place in the one-on-one meeting. As I’ve said before, it’s a delicate balance. Delivering negative feedback can be very difficult, especially if this is your first leadership position.
Ultimately, you want to deliver feedback in a way that makes a person grow. It’s like gently tapping them on the shoulder. You feel it, but it doesn’t bruise. As women, we struggle with being honest and fear our honesty and transparency will hurt another. What I’ve found is that it’s never my content that gets me in trouble, it’s always my delivery.
We mistake our truth for THE truth. It’s never the truth; it’s always our perception about what we think happened. The mind creates its own reasoning and we believe it thinking we have the truth, but it’s only the narrow confines of our own minds. It’s a mistake to walk into any corrective conversation thinking you have all the facts if you didn’t ask any questions prior.
Many articles are out there on delivering feedback, but few talk about intention.
The intention of giving the feedback is as critical as the information you are about to deliver.
Sadly, we don’t communicate in the spirit of unity; we talk (not communicate) for the sake of being heard, or worse, being right.
As a leader, speaking is expected, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we are going to say that we actually forget there is anyone out there, on the other side of our words. Take time afterward and encounter to consider what you said and what kind of impact it had on the individual. Consider the subtle look on their face or how they held their body as you spoke. Over time, evaluate how you think your communication affects the other person on the other end.
Do you think they tune out or turn off?
Do you think they feel judged or berated?
Do you think they rise to the occasion and perform better?
Feedback should always be delivered considering the how and why, not who.
Prior to having any constructive feedback conversation, get yourself in check. Ask yourself tough questions; I encourage you to journal prior to holding the conversation. This is the difference between responding and reacting.
Respond as the female leader – never react.
Reactions stem from emotions that may not illuminate what is really going on, so before you engage in a tough office conversation or intend to deliver feedback, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the purpose of the meeting with your direct report?
- What are you trying to convey? Can you convey this in less than five minutes?
- Do you have all the information you need, or should you be asking more questions prior to speaking? Is this an information-gathering session or a deliver-feedback session?
- Are you angry/disappointed/confused with the situation? (If so, construct questions and don’t deliver any feedback just yet.)
- Are you delivering feedback based on fact, or are you delivering criticism based on judgment?
- What do you get out of holding the meeting? Is there an electrical charge? (For example, from anger, being right, or pointing the finger at someone’s mistake.)
- If this is truly a deliver-feedback meeting, which three points do you need to cover? (Be succinct as possible.)
- Can you deliver this information in five or ten minutes?
- What is the best outcome for both of you?
- Do you intend to have a follow-up conversation to see if the person processed the information and is making changes?
Notice I suggested that you be succinct as possible. If you are succinct, you are delivering information. If you tend to go on, it’s likely, your opinion, judgments, or your ego is engaged.
Negative feedback doesn’t have to be a negative experience.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Difficult Conversations: Delivering Feedback Effectively by Julie Chance
- Are You A Gracious Boss? by Kimberly Sulfridge
- The Real Truth About Being Bold by Michele Gooch
- Timing Is Everything! by Jude Olson