Transforming the Delivery of the F-Word: Feedback

By Jessica Speas posted 27 days ago

Feedback image

Feedback. It is a word that makes many of us cringe a bit, and perhaps for a good reason. We have all received out-of-the-blue, unsolicited feedback that made us feel like…Ok, I will say it…poo.

Think way back into the early days of your career. Or maybe think back to just last week. Chances are good that you have been the recipient of raw feedback which left you with an assortment of awful feelings: anger, defensiveness, sadness and hurt.

I am willing to bet that, thanks to the poorly delivered feedback you received, you just may have gotten into the habit of poorly delivering feedback to others. Who can blame you? If you have never received feedback the right way - if it has always been delivered as a verbal “you suck” list - you have no frame of reference regarding how to deliver meaningful and productive feedback.

Yet, to be an effective manager, we must master the skill of giving feedback. We must step away from the nitpicking and provide feedback that can empower an individual to make positive changes. If helping an individual improve is not your goal, you really have no business providing feedback at all.

Professional development writer Jason Lauritsen has often referred to feedback as “the F-word of management.” Yet, he recognizes that well-delivered feedback fuels growth and performance.

So, how do we go about giving better, meaningful feedback as practice managers?

My advice to you is a unique mashup up of both my own pointers and some invaluable tips I gleaned from Jason Lauritsen’s vlog “3 Tips for How to Give Better Feedback.” I will let you guess whose tips are whose:

  • Ask for Permission to Offer Feedback Before You Give It. Asking, “May I give you some feedback?” is a much better, and more respectful, approach than saying, “Hey, here’s some feedback…” then dumping the motherload on someone. Your staff member will be more open to listening, and more mentally prepared for feedback if you request permission to provide it.
  • Set the Tone, Prepare the Setting. It is hard to give or receive feedback in a noisy and distracting practice environment. Make some smart decisions about when feedback should occur. Certainly, privacy and quiet are key, which means you might need to set a time for feedback before or after patient hours. Set up the chairs for success. This is not a joke. Avoid the “big boss in a big chair across the desk” setup. Arrange the room so you can sit and talk together, side-by-side.
  • State your Intentions. The main reason to offer feedback is to be helpful and supportive of the person you are giving it to. Reduce the feedback recipient’s angst by immediately establishing why you are giving feedback. For example, you could say, “As the manager it is my job to help you enhance your performance. This feedback might not be fun to hear, but I think it will help you learn and adapt to be more successful.” This approach lets the individual know that you are committed to their improvement, and there to support them.
  • Focus on “feedforward” NOT feedback. The use of word “feedforward” is much more than clever semantics; it is a mindset. Feedback looks back at things that happened in the past critically, with a focus on what went wrong. However, because the past cannot be changed, feedback can really be disempowering. Alternatively, feedforward focuses on insights and ideas on how to perform better in the future. Unlike the past, the future is something that an individual can have control over. Delivering feedforward as a tip is a powerful and proactive way to guide an individual toward improvement. It could be as simple as saying, “Next time you deal with X, you might want to try Y.”
  • Encourage Notetaking or Be the Scribe. Let’s be honest, a talk with the manager will give some individuals jitters, even if you follow all the previous tips. To help both of you recall the feedforward discussed, it is always a good idea to capture the tips on paper or on a keyboard – whether they serve as gentle reminders or formal documentation.

Follow this approach and you will not only empower and improve the potential of an employee; you will serve as a wonderful role model for how leaders should share feedback with those they manage.

May all the future feedforward you receive be poo-less!

Jessica Speas, CVPM, SPHR, PHR-ca, SHRM-SCP, CCFP
VHMA President