newleadertuesdaygraphicWelcome to our last post in the  New Leader Tuesday series on strengthening your feedback skills.

Part 1 tackled the issues of fear and anxiety that keeps so many new leaders from engaging in or conducting effective feedback discussions.

Part 2 emphasized the importance of assessing the feedback situation and establishing a direction for the upcoming discussion.

Part 3 helped us focus on the key ingredients required in every feedback discussion: behavioral, business rationale, candid and specific, involves dialog and timely delivery.

Part 4 offered guidance on starting the feedback discussion with an effective opening sentence.

In part 5, we focused on managing the discussion.

In our final post in this series, here are some important Do’s and Don’ts that I’ve learned through experience (often the hard way), or, gained through the insights of clients and program participants. Use these in good health and great feedback!

8 Key Feedback Don’ts:

1. Don’t delay. Feedback is best delivered as close as possible to your observation of the behavior. Specific behavior feedback is particularly useless and annoying when banked until the annual performance review. I call this Dump Truck feedback.

2. Don’t be afraid of the feedback conversation. Good professionals crave feedback.

3. Don’t forget the positive feedback. Too many managers focus on just the negatives and forget that we also need to encourage those behaviors that reinforce high performance. I like a 3:1 positive to constructive ratio. Of course, be careful with your positive feedback as well. The same rules apply…i.e., it must be behavioral, specific and business focused.

4. Don’t sandwich. Yes, I often run into disagreement on this one, but I prefer to deliver feedback sans the bread of positive praise. See the prior point on positive feedback. The dialog on a constructive issue is no time for positive feedback. It obfuscates the message!

5. Don’t indict. When it feels like an indictment or accusation to the receiver, it’s bound to be a poor interchange.

6. Don’t ramble. Seriously. A high word count doesn’t make it better…it just makes you as the giver look lost or weak.

7. Don’t bring too many behaviors to the discussion at one time. Focus.

8. Don’t fret if a discussion goes bad. Analyze what happened and strive to strengthen your handling of the situation at the next occasion.

And flipping things around:

10 Critical Feedback Do’s:

1. Do plan your discussions. Use the guidance in this series to build a framework for success before you start the discussion.

2. Do learn to become a better receiver of feedback. Your active listening skills and your appreciation for the value of feedback is as important as your ability to deliver it.

3. Do practice early and often. The good news is that your practice is in a living laboratory and the results are visible in real time.

4. Do deliver ample positive praise…separate and distinct from the constructive criticism.

5. Do remember the key components of effective discussions. Focus on behavioral examples and link the feedback to the business.

6. Do create dialog…feedback isn’t intended to be a monologue.

7. Do set a follow-on schedule. And keep it!

8. Do ask for feedback on your feedback skills. Your boss, your co-workers and your team members all have perspectives on your skills.

9. Do pay these lessons forward! Train your aspiring managers and leaders on feedback.

10. Do read and study other techniques in delivering effective feedback. The Crucial Conversations/Confrontations books are excellent.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Feedback is a powerful performance strengthening tool and the means by which we all learn and grow.  Developing your comfort with and confidence for delivering feedback of all types is an essential part of your growth as a leader and as a professional.

In reality, experienced feedback masters understand there are a few key rules and a simple process for navigating the feedback challenge and strengthening their performance as leaders. It starts with you putting in some time, exploring the components and tools of effective feedback and then practicing the skills daily. There’s no time like the present to start!

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