Good feedback practice is like surgery: here’s the procedure

Giving feedback is an important leadership skill. Being able to deliver feedback well takes preparation. Good feedback practice is like surgery – positive outcomes can only be achieved when the right systems and processes are place. On the other hand, a reckless approach can lead to trauma, and may even have life-long consequences.

As an executive coach and facilitator, I am quite shocked at the horror stories that involve poor judgement from leaders in managing performance review situations. It is deflating for everyone. For leaders charged with this task, there are three ways to make sure you’re well-equipped to provide productive feedback that will help the people in your team thrive.

1.    Clarify the intent

Medical professionals caring for patients undergoing surgery have a clear intent – act in the best interest of the patient to keep them alive on the table. Every precaution is taken, based on established systems and processes. The patient comes first. There is high engagement all-round because everyone understands what the ultimate goal is.

For leaders, clarifying intent when giving feedback builds trust, shows transparency, and demonstrates accountability. It increases engagement in the conversation, and investment in the outcome. Clarity of purpose is critical to good feedback practice – it is a skill, and can take time for leaders to feel finely-tuned and confident.

2.    Articulate processes

Patients who are having surgery are made well-aware of the processes. They do not just turn up on the day, without any background on procedures. Similarly, good feedback practice involves an agenda – what will be covered in the conversation with your team member? Has the process been articulated? Open communication about processes will underpin constructive results.

3.    How to thrive post-feedback

After a surgical procedure, patients are given time to recover. They are given rehabilitation, guidance and encouraged to asked lots of questions – all to ensure a full recovery. For leaders, it is important to facilitate an environment where team members can grow and learn from formal and informal feedback – and provide opportunities to give feedback regularly.

How healthy is feedback practice at your workplace?

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