The Art of Feedback (In a COVID world)

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Create a Safe (Virtual) Container

Just the thought of feedback can activate our brains threat response and make us less receptive and more reactive.  Create a safe container by checking your own intent as well as choosing logistics thoughtfully.  Don’t give feedback if you are upset—allow yourself to cool down first.  When you’re ready, assume your own positive intent reminding yourself that feedback allows you and them to both grow, support the team and the organization. 

Once you’ve checked your intention, choose logistics thoughtfully.  Do not give constructive feedback in front of others (not on a group zoom call, please!).  Create a container that allows them to feel safe (like ordering them their favorite seamless meal and asking that they set time aside in a quiet place for a feedback conversation.)

Be Clear and Kind

Directness and transparency go a long way in feedback conversations. Do not sidestep the tough stuff because you feel uncomfortable and do not save difficult feedback for a future conversation.  That can undermine psychological safety.

Be direct, but kind and empathetic—considering the other persons feelings.  Do not talk about this feedback with others (unless it warrants other managers or departments) and do not, in any circumstances, gossip

Give Actionable Feedback

To keep us on track, use the following format to guide your feedback.  Context, action, impact, solution. Describe the context—the where and when of the challenge.  Then, share specifics on the action that lead to the breakdown or challenge. It’s important to share the impact of that action—what happened as a result? And then finally, what is the solution or next steps?  Feedback without a solution attached is simply complaining so ensure you have some ideas on-hand as to next steps or solutions.

Talk it Out

Now that we’ve shared the feedback in the most constructive way, we want to open it up for a dialogue.  Ask a few open-ended questions such as “how do you see this challenge?” or “does this makes sense to you?” and even “what’s your reaction?”  Allow them to speak to freely and check in on their body language and listen for what isn’t being said (so important in a virtual space).  Hold space with kindness and don’t avoid the hard stuff.

Make Agreements

Reaffirm your intentions for moving forward + your own role in the initial breakdown.  Identify with them how you more effectively support them moving forward.  Restate what you will do moving forward to ensure they have the support they need to achieve the desired outcome. 

 Write down your agreements and next steps.  Follow up as often as it makes sense to both of you.  If there is no progress made, establish next steps.

Check in With Yourself

Afterwards, self-assess and see how you did.  Did you create a safe container?  Were you open and empathetic?  What was your intention? Were you receptive and kind in the dialogue? Were you clear on your role in the breakdown and on the agreements? What can you improve for next time?

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