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Avoid these 5 Feedback Errors

If addressing issues were easy, we would all be doing it with ease and zero angst.


Think about when you have to follow up with someone or deliver constructive criticism or deliver a message that might be considered negative, what happens within you? What is your approach?


Here are 5 common feedback/ communication errors:


 Common Error #1: The Hidden agenda

This is a tactic where you lead into the conversation without the person knowing you want to talk to them. It might sound like “So, how’s it going?” It sounds like a casual connection, but then you pounce with what you actually want to talk about. The old switcheroo.


This doesn’t work well for 2 reasons: 1) You are a leader. Trust is built with honesty and transparency. If you use a fake connection instead of being honest, you won’t build trust.  2) The person you want to have a conversation with may not be in the head space to have a difficult conversation. You lose their respect because it might feel like you’re always cornering them.


The fix: Tell the person you need to chat about “X” topic and then schedule a mutually benefit time to discuss it. 



 Common Error #2: The Sandwich

This tactic wedges negative feedback between two pieces of praise. When you use this approach, you’re not making clear what needs improvement. Truthfully, you are just trying to make yourself feel more comfortable in delivering the negative message.  Secondly, the person doesn’t get an opportunity to experience praise without the expectation that negativity is also going to be delivered.


 Fix: Deliver negative feedback promptly and directly. Keep praise separate from negative comments. Give the person an opportunity to bask in praise when it is given rather than creating an expectation that some negative comment will also be also accompanying it. (Think about it. What do you remember more easily… positive or negative comments? Negative will always overshadow the positive.) 



 Common Error #3: Cushion Method

You spend so much time trying to soften the blow, the message never gets through. This is similar to the sandwich method, yet the messaging feels all over the place, never really getting to the point. Again, this approach is often used when the person delivering the constructive criticism is uncomfortable with it. You tend to feel like “the bad person” because you are not comfortable with conflict.


 Fix: Being direct solves this problem. Plus seek understanding. “I want to talk to you about last week’s project performance. The results were less than expected and I just want to check in to understand your perspective.” You get to point of the conversation to begin exploring what is going on without harshness or edge. It is simply a conversation to explore what is going on. 



 Common Error #4: The Veiled Message

This is a passive-aggressive approach to get your message across. It leaves the person, for whom the message is intended, guessing what you are getting at or confused by your indirect behaviour. This approach looks like:


Any sentence that begins with “Must be nice…”

Sarcasm, dark humour, taking shots.

The silent treatment. 


You may pretend that you are joking around, but you are trying to be unkind and control the other person.


It’s not effective.

It’s mean. 

It’s unclear.


Whatever trust you have built, will go to zero with these approaches. No one wants to be treated with aggression. 

There is no place for it in leadership.


 Fix: Get comfortable with conversations that seek understanding. If you take shots at people under the guise of joking or ignore people to get their attention, it shows you’re uncomfortable with confronting conversations. You either lack the skills to have honest dialogue or you’re letting your ego run unchecked. Have dialogues that hit the issue head on with a calm, direct conversation of how you are feeling and what you want. Anything else leaves people guessing what you are trying to get at. People aren’t mind readers, nor are they responsible for your communication coping skills.



 The Error: The Blitz

This person can’t handle confrontation, so they riddle people with assaults. This is a very aggressive style. They tend to walk into a room, spit vitriol and leave. This kind of behaviour diminishes psychological safety. You can’t be trusted because you are showing erratic behaviour. This type of communicator can be easily upset, so people tend to tiptoe around them.


 Fix: Have honest dialogue to address issues rather than slinging negativity. If slinging negativity is your go-to style, there is something within you that needs to be examined. As a leader, a shift needs to happen to increase psychological safety and regain trust. 


All these communication styles relate to both our professional and personal lives. 


I always say that you are communicating who you are every minute of every day. 


Here’s the Good News!


Our communication style shows us where we can grow. The stronger we become in our communication style, the stronger bonds we build with people. 


When we have great connections with people, TRUST grows.


And when you have TRUST, you have SPEED. People will do what they can to help you. If you do not create a safe space for others, however, people back away from you.


2 Tips to remember:


Having more honest, calm conversations, show others you care. You wouldn’t be having this conversation if you didn’t care for them as a person, employee, or team member.


I cannot stress enough stay in the present moment. Be here now. When we are conscious in our interactions, we would not choose to be unkind or unclear. When we are conscious, we are willing to sit with the discomfort to make something better. Everything good that we want is on the other side of a meaningful conversation.


Feedback is a challenging area of communication, but it can be done well with some practice. 


Coaching Question: Think about how you show up when addressing something uncomfortable. What is one thing you could practice that would improve your communication when addressing an uncomfortable topic?


Want to start your week off inspired? 

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