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Focus Your Feedback On What You DO Want vs. What You Don’t Want

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

The biggest reason people don’t respond well to feedback is that they often don’t understand what the other person wants them to do differently. Recently, I even realized that this applies to my Thursday “action” group as we write postcards to politicians. We need to clarify what we DO want to see, not just what we object to.

Focus on what you want to see happen As you give feedback at work, your emphasis should be on what you DO want & why. There are hugely important reasons for this: -A focus on what you don’t want leaves the other person feeling like a failure–which has a chain reaction. They shut down and are less productive. -A lack of clear, detailed communication of what you do want deprives them of the information they truly need to do a better job.

You are probably already good at what they are bad at

Feedback topics you want improved are quite frequently the areas YOU are already good at. Most of the talents you already possess come easily and naturally for you. That is why the absence of these skills in others may be particularly irritating.

For instance, you may naturally be great at one of these:

-Communicating early to let others know where you are on projects & to request any needed help

-Priority-setting and re-setting, so that you continuously use your time for greatest impact

-Asking great questions to clarify customer needs

Feedback about what someone’s not doing well doesn’t automatically show them how 

If one or more of the above skills come naturally for you, you will expect the people you work with to do it easily too. When you give them feedback–say, that they are not probing to identify customers’ specific needs–you are assuming that if they chose to, they could demonstrate this skill right away. But not everyone is good at what you are good at.

Allocate most of your feedback conversation to how they can get it right

Stack the deck in favor of how the other person can be successful next time and spend way less time detailing how they were wrong in the past.

6 ways to focus your feedback on Do’s vs. Don’ts

1. Summarize the problem your observed as quickly as possible, while giving enough detail for understanding

2. Reference the future as you start to explain what you do want to see, e.g. “When you call that customer next time…” or “Tomorrow morning when you’re organizing the assignments….”

3. Show optimism and confidence that they can shift how they’re doing the job

4. Pause to ask for their questions about how to do it better next time

5. Ask them to summarize what they see doing differently next time

6. Ask how you can help them further and support their success

You will be surprised how this shift in focus makes a huge difference for you in seeing what you want to see in your work setting.

Learn More

Read The Feedback Imperative for more information on how to give great feedback!

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