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Make It Easy to Have that Difficult Conversation

In a previous post, we talked about accepting feedback graciously and even inviting it. It’s equally important to give effective feedback in a way that others can hear it without feeling attacked or defensive.  Here’s a simple model for delivering feedback that others can hear and accept.

3wYou can only do this if you have a constructive intent. So, your first challenge is to get yourself into a neutral point of view. In order to be effective, you may have to set aside your emotions. Good feedback, the kind you’d want to receive, is objective and helpful.

With this objective perspective, you can deliver simple and helpful feedback that is broken into three parts. Think of this as 3W Feedback – What, Why, Way.

WHAT – State the situation objectively, based on behaviors you’ve observed. Avoid accusatory and inflammatory statements like “You always” “You never” and “I’m sick of…” They just won’t be very credible or productive. Instead, start with “I have noticed,” or “It appears to me that…” Then state the behavior. Don’t make it sound like a judgment or pronouncement. Just state the facts.

WHY – Follow up with a statement of why this matters. What’s the impact? (If there is no significant impact, go back to step one where you are checking your own ability to offer non-emotional, helpful feedback.) State the impact so that the person receiving your feedback can understand who is affected and how. Articulate the risks, consequences, or concerns so that there is a clear case for doing things differently.

WAY – With the situation objectively stated and the impact laid out clearly, give a brief overview of what needs to be done differently. If (or when) the listener is receptive, you can go into greater detail. By showing this contrast now, you do not leave a criticism flapping in the breeze. You bring closure to this conversation and it has merit as being constructive, building toward an improvement.

Here’s an example:

WHAT – I’ve noticed that you have been arriving about 20 minutes late each day this week.

WHY – The reason I am bringing this to your attention is that we are missing our morning production deadline. This is costing the company in overtime and late fees. It’s also a blow to team morale when the deadlines are missed since everyone works so hard to hit the targets. We really need every one here on time in order to deliver what we’ve committed to.

WAY – I’m going to need for you to be here on time each day. If there is a problem, let’s talk about it now. Otherwise, I will look for you at 7:00 sharp starting tomorrow.

This is depersonalized, objective, and matter-of-fact in tone. There is no soft-pedaling, just a candid message to convey what matters. When it comes to delivering feedback, this straightforward approach is generally kinder and easier to hear than feedback that beats around the bush.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalAs a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show every person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And subscribe to our weekly CONNECT2Lead Newsletter for special offers, content, and blog