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Mastering the Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback: A Comprehensive Guide

In the dynamic world of leadership, the ability to give and receive feedback effectively stands out as a cornerstone for personal and organizational growth. Over the last 20 years, I have worked as a facilitator, consultant, and leadership coach. One of my favorite parts of this work is helping people give effective feedback. It’s one of the most important skills for increasing the effectiveness of our relationships and organizations, yet most of us are uncomfortable and/or ineffective at doing it.

Why Give Feedback?

Giving effective feedback helps the other person understand exactly what they did and the impact it had on you and others. When the information is specific and devoid of interpretation or evaluation, the recipient is more likely to be motivated to begin, continue, or stop behaviors that affect performance.

Overcoming Barriers to Giving Feedback

To become proficient in giving feedback, we need to shift our mental model:

  1. Feedback as a Gift: Consider feedback as valuable information that can help someone be more successful.
  2. Feedback as Subjective: Feedback reflects the giver’s experience. For instance, I’ve received feedback like “I love how much you smile when you present” and “You smile too much when you present. It undermines your credibility.” Both are true for the feedback givers, but it’s up to me to decide how to act on it.
  3. Feedback as Both Positive and Constructive: It should affirm desirable behavior and suggest changes for undesirable behavior.
  4. Feedback as a Habit: Frequent practice makes giving feedback easier. Immediate feedback is more impactful because the situation is fresh in the receiver’s mind.

Model for Giving Effective Feedback: SBIN

The SBIN model is a structured approach to delivering feedback:

  • S—Situation: Describe the specific situation to anchor the feedback in a context the receiver can understand.
  • B—Behavior: Detail the observable actions that the person performed.
  • I—Impact: Explain the impact of their behavior on you, the team, or the organization using “I” statements.
  • N—Next Time: Suggest what could be done differently next time to improve.

Example:

“During yesterday’s meeting (Situation), you interrupted several colleagues while they were speaking (Behavior). This made it difficult for us to follow the discussion and created frustration among the team (Impact). Next time, please let others finish before you share your thoughts (Next Time).”

Receiving Feedback

Receiving feedback can feel more challenging than giving it. It’s useful to have a simple method to receive, reflect back, and appreciate the feedback, even if you don’t agree with everything you hear.

Guidelines for Receiving Feedback

  1. Say “Thank You”: Feedback is a gift and an opportunity to learn from others’ perspectives.
  2. Stay Open: Avoid explaining, justifying, or defending your actions.
  3. Take It at Face Value: Simply listen and absorb the feedback without adding extra meaning.

Model for Effectively Receiving Feedback: LAR

The LAR model helps in receiving feedback graciously:

  • L—Listen: Pay careful attention to the feedback without interrupting or mentally preparing a response.
  • A—Appreciate: Thank the feedback giver to keep the communication open and maintain the relationship.
  • R—Reflect: Reflect back what you heard to ensure you understand the feedback correctly. Initially, repeat verbatim; as you get more comfortable, you can paraphrase.

Example:

“Thank you for your feedback about my presentation. You mentioned that my slides were too text-heavy and that it made it difficult to follow along. I appreciate your insights and will work on simplifying my slides in the future.”

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Practice Makes Perfect

The objective of mastering feedback is to improve individual and collective performance. By overcoming barriers to giving and receiving feedback, and using the SBIN and LAR models, you can significantly enhance your effectiveness in relationships and organizational dynamics. Remember, feedback is subjective, and what works for one person might not work for another. Regular practice and multiple perspectives will help refine your approach, making you a more effective leader and team player.

In conclusion, feedback is an invaluable tool for growth. Embrace it, practice it, and watch your relationships and performance soar.

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