Why people want bad news

People need feedback to develop and grow. Leaders who don't provide corrective feedback to their people stifle growth and limit potential.

In 2014, business management consultancy Zenger Folkman surveyed 899 individuals globally about their relationship with feedback. They found most people wanted corrective feedback, more than praise, if it were provided in a constructive manner, while 72 per cent said their performance would improve if their manager provided corrective feedback.

Here are three reasons why giving corrective feedback matters:

1. People need challenge

John Demartini, an American researcher and best-selling author in human behaviour said: “People grow at the boundary of support and challenge.” Developmental feedback challenges people to keep growing, and encourages them to remain on track.

2. People need clarity

We can’t see our behaviours as clearly as others can. Without an outside perspective, we remain blind to our development opportunities and strengths. We rely on our leaders to provide the clarity we can’t see for ourselves.

3. People learn best on the job

The 70-20-10 theory of organisational learning suggests that only 10 per cent of learning happens in a formal training program (with 70 per cent coming from tough jobs and 20 per cent from people). Most learning happens on the job, and people can’t get better without feedback.

The roadblocks to giving corrective feedback

If corrective feedback is so important, and everyone wants it, why don't we get enough of it? Here are six common roadblocks:

1. Don't have time

It’s easy to put off a potentially uncomfortable interaction on the basis of being too busy.

2. Don't know how it will be received

You worry you will offend or upset the person and perhaps damage the relationship.

3. Don’t see it as your role

As a junior in an organisation, success is about growing yourself. As a leader, success is about growing others.

4. Don't have the skills

The ability to give feedback is one that must be cultivated in addition to job-specific technical skills.

5. Don’t realise the importance of it

Perhaps, until now, you hadn’t realised the value of constructive feedback. Perhaps it’s hard to believe that what is so clear to you (as an observer) can be unknown to others.

6. Don't have the confidence

It’s not a job most people relish, and many leaders find it hard to have the tough conversations.

How to give developmental feedback

There are three key elements for giving developmental feedback:

1. Discover

Build awareness of the need for change. Deciding what feedback to offer requires awareness of the behaviours and their resulting effects. Awareness is important; it precedes and directs change, and creates motivation.

2. Decode

Create insight and understanding of the underlying drivers of the behaviour. Trying to change behaviours without addressing the intention is like painting a car red and expecting it to go faster.

Conversations that help your people decode their motivational drivers means energy can be redirected into behaviour that better supports their intention. This is like lifting the bonnet of the car to help them understand how the engine works.

3. Design

Agree on the pathway and actions required to create new behaviours. Collaborate with the person to help them design their own pathway for improved performance. Once their plan is in place, it’s about supporting them to stay the course.

The context sets the scene for development and change. Understanding the environment in which feedback is given will influence your approach and the outcome.

Over to you

Your people are craving the developmental feedback you may be reluctant to give. They want and need to know exactly what it is they can do to develop. There is a payoff for providing this feedback – for you, your people and your business.

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