When you have spinach on your teeth and no one tells you

Of all the things I get asked to coach people on, giving feedback has to be at the top of the list.  This isn't how the coaching issue is presented initially though. Clients come to me with a range of coaching objectives including:

- reluctance to have 'difficult conversations'

- strengthening leadership skills

- improving communication

- developing others effectively

Whilst there are nuances here and there in all of these topics, the heart of the matter lies in the ability of the manager or leader to provide good quality feedback to individuals within the business.  These individuals might be peers, senior or junior to them, but the fact remains that giving feedback seems to elude them.

Sticking your head in the sand isn't an option.  Situations never go away, they just get worse.

Sending tight lipped emails isn't going to help either.  Some managers like to hide behind emails and hope that it does the trick.  This never works, so please stop doing it if you normally do this or if you're thinking of doing it, please don't.

Having a friendly 'chat' often misses the mark too as people who are supposed to be receiving the feedback often have no idea what just went on during the coffee and 'chat'

When I say 'feedback', I mean, of course the variety that we often don't want to hear.  Saying someone is brilliant is very easy for most managers - although, I have coached some people who find this tricky too.  Saying to someone, 'you're not doing something we'd like you to be doing' or 'you're doing something that we'd like you to stop doing' is a harder conversation.

I like to think of it like this:  unless someone tells me my dress is tucked into my tights as I leave the ladies loo, I'm never going to know.  It's akin to those times when you've had spinach stuck in your teeth all day and no one has metnioned it, depite the fact you were giving a presentation to 2000 people.

Quite frankly, I'd like to know if I'm not doing something well and I firmly believe it is a matter of courtesy to let your colleagues, teams or boss know that they missed the mark and could improve.  When you realise that receiving feedback is the ONLY way you'll ever improve on anything, then it becomes a thing you heartily welcome into your working life.  

So, giving feedback becomes a part of that working life.  Framing it in the context of continually improving, growing and developing will help the listener absorb the negative feedback more readily.  Asking questions around the behaviour of the receiver of feedback is a much more constructive way to convey a difficult message and finally, simply being absolutely straight with someone about what is acceptable and not acceptable gives everyone clear boundaries to work within.

In a nutshell, giving all kinds of feedback is just feedback and there are three things to remember;

1. Question the behaviours, not the person

2. Establish clear boundaries and repeat these to everyone (a lot - I cannot stress the repetition part of this enough as people have very short memories)

3. Be honest.  People might not like the truth, but it's easier to come to terms with it than a fudge/lie or misdirection

Once people get used to a culture of feedback it becomes the norm and the continuous cycle of growth and progression begins.

Learn NLP with me on the 18th to 24th March in Edinburgh, check out www.rebeccainspires.com/shop for details

Be clear with your boundaries and feedback becomes easier to deliver and receive

Feedback is the breakfast of champions