By Abigail Ireland, Peak Performance Strategist
Feedback conversations can often be nerve-wracking – difficult to start and even harder to navigate, whether we are on the receiving end or giving feedback to others. Most of us are not entirely comfortable with these conversations, despite the abundance of benefits. Bringing in a virtual dimension adds even more challenge, which often leads to total avoidance.
A key success factor of high performing individuals is their receptiveness to feedback. This is evident across industries, from business to sport to science. Our ability to uplevel expands when we use feedback to get specific on what to continue, stop doing or adjust. To perform at our best, we need to be open to feedback and we need to have healthy, honest conversations that help others to do the same – despite the location.
Overcome mental blocks
There are many things that get in the way of good, honest feedback conversations – particularly when we attempt to give feedback upwards. We worry about damaging relationships, upsetting others, potential backlash, repercussions and impact on career progression.
A good way to overcome our mental obstacles is to reframe how we think about feedback and feedback conversations – to the point where we can’t wait to get stuck in. Feedback is ultimately valuable information. We have a choice to acknowledge it, act upon it or ignore it.
And whilst we often think that feedback conversations are purely centred on improvement, studies show that even high performers benefit from feedback as this enables them to get even better and reach new heights.
Pro Tip 1: Think of giving feedback as showing we care, as Kim Scott (author of Radical Candor) eloquently puts it. We’re not helping the other person by ignoring that they have ‘spinach in their teeth’ and ultimately holding them back from acting on what they can do to be even better. It’s unfair to the other person if we don’t share our thoughts, as this will impact future performance, business outcomes and trust in the longer term.
Pro Tip 2: Consider the benefits of giving feedback for yourself, the other person, the team, business, and other stakeholders. Brainstorm as many benefits as possible, so you can head into your conversation with confidence that it wouldn’t be fair for you to keep quiet. Get excited about sharing your insights and guidance to support someone to excel!
Make time for feedback
In a hybrid world, we’re often back-to-back with meetings and unable to casually bump into each other. This can lead to us putting off feedback conversations due to lack of opportunity.
We may think it’s better to wait until we are physically together, but this can make the whole process feel too formal and even irrelevant by the time we actually get to it.
Even if we decide to have a remote feedback conversation, we feel like we need to put an appointment into calendars. So, either way, it can feel like there is a big build up before the event, and this contributes to the nerves and anxiety.
Pro Tip 3: Acknowledge the discomfort and lean into it. We need to make time for feedback conversations whether face-to-face or speaking virtually. Weave feedback into everyday interactions and don’t just store it all up for formal one-to-ones.
Pro Tip 4: Making time also means ensuring that the other person doesn’t feel rushed or that the conversation is a tick box exercise. Create the space for an effective discussion, and invest effort to build rapport and trust before jumping straight in. Don’t just download and exit – make it a two-way dialogue and listen intently without judgement.
Set up the feedback environment
It can be extremely tricky having a virtual feedback conversation, because we have limited opportunity to benefit from human connection and the subtle nuances that help rapport-building. Studies have even shown that virtual interactions are seen to be more impersonal, shallow and challenging than face-to-face interactions.
The reality in today’s world is that we have to get comfortable with this, rather than put off conversations entirely. We need to dial up rapport in spite of the challenges.
Pro Tip 5: Think about making the virtual or physical environment comfortable for everyone involved. This will support a more relaxed, productive, open conversation.
If face to face, are you going to sit directly opposite each other or create a more informal vibe by sitting side by side? Will you opt for a meeting room or coffee shop?
If virtual, will you build trust by sharing your actual background or opt for virtual background that is a little more formal – but which may subconsciously imply that you are not bringing your full self to the conversation, perhaps ‘hiding’ something and therefore diminishing trust?
Pro Tip 6: Even think about what you wear to set the right tone and ambience. What will be most conducive to an open, honest and comfortable conversation? You may opt for casual, relaxed clothes to give an informal, relaxed vibe to the discussion…or maybe not.
Get even better at feedback
These are just some simple tips we can act upon to have impactful feedback conversations, but it doesn’t stop there. Feedback conversations may never be entirely effortless and comfortable, but they are extremely useful. Prepare and practise so you and others can reap the benefits of untapped sources of valuable information.
For more in-depth strategies and resources to master the art of hybrid feedback, check out my online class, Impactful Feedback in a Hybrid World.