Is it a situation that must be tackled yet one in which a fuse will be lit if it isn’t handled well?
As we all know, the first steps are the most crucial in constructive conversations. But beyond the obvious of having the conversation in private – and ideally face-to-face – what is the best way to get started?
Based on the research into limiting assumptions, and our shared experience over decades of coaching, red10 have developed an 8-step process that starts with what seems like very straightforward advice for giving constructive feedback; “State the facts whilst withholding judgment”.
Sounds simple enough. Yet we can recite many stories concerning real conversations where even this first step was tackled less than adeptly, where judgments were made and individuals were left baffled and demotivated.
Consider, for example, the team member who was told by his boss that he was “clearly not very confident in chairing telephone conferences”. What had led the boss to make this judgment and state it as a fact? Having noticed that the team member left pauses after participants had finished speaking, the boss assumed hesitation and lack of confidence. Bemused, the team member spent time working on his confidence in teleconferences only to discover many months later the basis upon which the assumption had been made. What the member was actually doing in ensuring pauses was giving everyone on the call time to digest what had just been said as well as having time to make notes.
Or take the case of the in-house trainer who was told she was patronising in her training approach. Offered no more information, the trainer struggled to understand the feedback as she knew this was not her intent. Eventually, having plucked up the courage to ask for more information, she discovered that some simple, well-intended phrases she used in her voluntary work with teenagers had crept into her speech at work. With teenagers, the phrases were perfect but at work, they missed the mark. Finally armed with more information, the trainer was able to change her approach. But she could have done so many weeks before had she simply been offered the facts and judgment withheld.
In both cases, time and energy would not have been wasted, and angst and bad feeling not left to fester if the issues had been raised by stating the facts whilst withholding judgment. This would have allowed the individuals to explore for themselves the meaning of the behaviour, why they were using it and what did or did not need to change.
In both cases, when the actual facts were explored – and judgments withheld – deeper conversations took place that motivated the people concerned to either help others to understand the benefits of their approach or to make performance-improving changes.
We’ve found red10’s 8-steps to be so accurate and powerful that missing even a single step risks negative consequences, especially in emotionally-charged situations.
If you would like to learn more about red10’s 8-steps of constructive feedback or would like to help your teams and colleagues to tackle behavioural issues in a more constructive way, please get in touch for an initial discussion by dropping a line to Kerry@red10dev.com for more information.