Where are you coming from?


So far the contributions to Helen Amery’s (https://twitter.com/WildFigSolns) Feedback Carnival have been top-class. I hope my simple (simplistic?) contribution will add something. Feedback welcome of course.

They are words to strike fear into many people’s heart: “I have some feedback for you”. Rightly or wrongly they have negative associations for many in the workplace.

If we really want to shift this mindset over time we need to be working very hard at Labelling and Intent. Maybe we even desist from using the word Feedback for a while. Forever?

After all we can be very adept at delivering careful messages to people we love – including things they don’t want to hear. But we don’t start with “I’ve got some feedback for you” and we don’t limit it to once a year do we? We talk. We explain where we’re coming from. We check understanding. We choose the right moment. Well sometimes we do.

Labelling must be a key communication skill for any emotionally intelligent manager or leader. You are signalling what you are trying to do. Why you are about to say something rather than just saying it. Where you want to reach. It’s a good habit – particularly when it comes to anything relating to performance.

“I have a thought I’d like to share…..I think you might find it interesting”

“Something interesting struck me just now. Can I share it with you? I think you might find it helpful”.

“I’m feeling a bit frustrated about this situation and I suspect you might be too. Can we work through it together?”

“That was disappointing wasn’t it? But it’s not the end of the world – we can fix it.”

“I reckon we can learn from this. Shall we discuss?”

As for the close relative that is Intent – well if you are going to share something negative (or positive for that matter) then it’s probably a good idea to choose your words with some care. And to ask yourself the killer question: “what is my intent here?” To have a go? Don’t! To help someone be at their best? Much better.

We know, don’t we, that people are wired differently when it comes to hearing about how they are doing – some seek it; others avoid it; some can cope with developmental feedback but cringe when it’s praise; others take offence at anything that they can construe as being criticised.

So, having double-checked your intent, try to ensure that the other person is un-am-big-u-ous-ly clear in their mind on what you are trying to do.

That’s in THEIR mind. Not yours. Am I clear on that point? It’s so important – the number of times I have worked with a Manager to help them deliver a certain message, they feel they have been heard but the recipient, it seems, is completely unaware of the message that has allegedly been conveyed.

How might you express intent?

“I have something I’d like to raise and I would like to make clear why I want to raise it”.

“I want to point out something and my aim is to support your development.”

“I’d like to celebrate something – and I want to do so in order to ensure you really focus on something I’ve spotted which is a strength.”

“That might not have gone so well – I’d like to support you in finding a way out of the situation and help you be more successful next time.”

“I’d like us to discuss how that went and I’m aiming to be helpful here”

“I’m on your side here – and I think I have a couple of ideas which might help your development”

Or fill in your own words.

You can do this you know. You really can. I believe in you.


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