“If you’re telling me I’ve done something wrong, then at least give me enough information to do it right next time!”
Many Managers struggle with giving real-time feedback. The concept of praising and correcting a team member in the moment can feel uncomfortable. More so for ‘Accidental Managers.’ Those who have been promoted to manage a team because they were good at their previous role… which probably involved very little people management at all!
In this article we’ll look at what feedback is and is not, and we’ll also introduce a simple four-part model that you can use for positive and constructive feedback. Let’s dive in…
WHAT FEEDBACK IS NOT!
To illustrate what feedback is not, I’ll share with you something that happen to me just this week… I got a parking ticket. It popped through the letter box all innocent… until opened. There it was, photos of my bright yellow Mini heading in and out of a car park. BUT which car park?
A quick read of the letter left me even more confused. No address, just the retail park name. I even did a google search, but this yielded very little in the way of useful information either. So, I checked my own calendar… ah yes, that networking coffee meeting at the new retail park! Sod it!
So, now I had located the offending car park and confirmed it was indeed me, my attention turned to the section which told me that I had apparently been there for 177 mins. This, according to the letter was over the allotted time. So how long could I have stayed? You guessed it, no information on that either!
I’m not disputing the fine, but if you’re telling me I’ve done something wrong, then at least give me enough information to do it right next time!
Now, imagine one of your team members has unwittingly done something incorrect. Would you simply tell them, ‘You’ve done it wrong, don’t do it again!’ And then offer no information on how to achieve a better result? (I’m hoping your answer is no!) This isn’t feedback, it’s simply telling someone off, and it doesn’t work.
SO, WHAT IS FEEDBACK?
Put simply in the context of being a Line Manager, feedback is: ‘the act of passing on positive or constructive information about a situation with the aim to improve future interactions.’ (Or there abouts!)
At its most basic level it should allow people to
THE S.A.N.D FEEDBACK MODEL
So, how do you cover all these elements? Well, I use a simple 4-part feedback model which just happens to form a nifty acronym of SAND! (It’s an amalgamation of several different feedback models that I’ve found work best over the years.)
Imagine that something has just happened which requires you to give feedback. Now, imagine you have a SAND-timer. This timer represents the short amount of time in which you can offer feedback that will have an impact on the recipient. After this timer runs out, impact will fade, and your feedback becomes diluted.
Let’s look at how it works:
(For the purposes of describing each section, I’m going to refer to giving constructive feedback.)
Start by establishing if they even know they have done anything incorrect. Sometimes people know and will wait and see what happens, others may come to you straight away to ensure it can be put right without delay, and some will not be aware till you tell them! Using the ‘self-assessment’ approach will: a) let you gauge which of these three you’re dealing with and, b) give them chance to explain their side of the story first.
What actions have you observed and what are the impact of these? Use ‘I’ statements. This shows you are taking responsibility for the feedback. It also means you’re not being ambiguous about where the feedback is coming from. Ask them to consider what impact their actions may have had on the team, the department, the business and other people’s perceptions of them etc. (Avoid asking ‘WHY’ as this becomes judgmental and will cause friction.)
(This is where the Sand-TIMER comes in to play!) Have this conversation NOW, or as close to the event as appropriate. DO NOT leave this till their next monthly review or 1:1! Dealing with things as soon as possible means you can course correct and avoid further issues down the line. It also shows your team member that you are being proactive.
Although you may have already spoken about ‘possible’ approaches to doing this differently, here you are asking them to clarify the conversation in their own words, so everyone is clear on what is expected and the consequences if it does not change.
To help put this model into context, here’s a quick example.
You have invited one of your team members to join you on an important client meeting to expand their development. You’ve already spoken to them about creating a good first impression. However, 5 minutes AFTER the meeting starts, they saunter into the meeting with a cup of tea in one hand looking less than concerned about their lateness, and with no apology sit down as if nothing is wrong. You ask them to remain behind after the meeting to give them some feedback. It might go something like this:
“I noticed you were late to the client meeting this morning, even though we’d already spoken about how important this was. I’m interested to find out what happened.”
“What impact do you think this had on the clients first impression of you?”
“What impact do you think this has had on me asking you to another client meeting in the future?”
“We have another client meeting next week. If I were to ask you to attend what will you do differently to ensure this doesn’t happen again?”
A WORD OF CAUTION
If this is very different to the way you currently do things, be aware that diving in without warning will create confusion and put people on the back foot.
A good way to overcome this is to simply let your team know that you will be offering more feedback. Explain that all your feedback is offered with good intentions, but it’s a work-in-progress and may take a while to get it right. In the mean time encourage them to offer real-time feedback too and share this model with them.
IN THE LONG RUN
Is it really worth the effort? Well, I have found that teams who frequently use real-time feedback have increased self-awareness and become more candid with each other. This in turn drives performance as they start to hold each other more accountable.
Offering feedback is an essential part of every Managers role, whether you’re in the role by accident or not. At the end of the day giving feedback allows others to grow and develop. But to get it right, you may just have to do a little growing and development yourself first. Hopefully this snap shot insight into my recommendations for feedback have gone someway to helping with that.
If you are looking for something more in-depth or to work with your team of managers to further develop their real-time feedback skills, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck on your feedback quest!
Learning doesn't just happen in a training session. It happens all around us! Follow my ramblings and continue to see the world in a different light!