How can leaders approach the challenge of giving feedback in tough conversations?
The topic of delivering negative feedback was discussed by Julia Rowan of Performance Matters, at Morgan McKinley's Breakfast Briefing.
As Julia mentioned in her talk; "the tough conversation" is the main topic of around 70% of all coaching sessions. Leaders, managers and supervisors often find it challenging to deliver negative feedback to their employees.
The "tough conversations" are often related to behavioural issues, attitude or poor performance, so failing to handle these professionally and kindly could potentially damage the relationship with your employees.
In order to be fair and effective, it's important to start with building a feedback relationship with your employee(s). Having a conversation to establish the rules of communication and agree on the baseline is a first and crucial step in building trust and understanding on both sides.
It's significantly easier to deliver negative impact if the employee is prepared to receive it. Having the date, time and format agreed in advance will allow the employee to mentally and physically prepare for the feedback.
Once the time to have the conversation has come, the leaders, managers and supervisor should focus on the facts. In order to ensure that feedback is delivered effectively and all points are fairly discussed, it's worth following the BOFF (Behaviour, Outcomes, Feelings, Future) model:
When handling tough conversations, be agile and use all 4 elements in the order that works best for you and that's appropriate to the discussion. Use the behaviour as an anchor for the conversation and pick and mix from outcome, feelings and future in the way that's suitable for the conversation.
During "the tough conversations" emotions can run high and the wrong words can slip out.
By preparing for the conversations and sorting your thoughts beforehand, leaders can gain more control over their own approach and contribution to the discussion.
It is recommended to pre-empt the questions they may ask you thoroughly and prepare by writing down your answers.
The tough conversation can serve different purposes from setting up a performance improvement plan, grievance or disciplinary conversation to informing someone about their redundancy.
Regardless of the goal the leaders and managers are working towards, it's crucial to remember that the focus should always remain on finding solutions and moving on.