Image by jaqian @ Flickr
It’s difficult to give feedback, especially when it’s not positive. However, as a leader, it’s something that’s necessary to get the best of people. I know I keep banging on about Jo Owen’s book How to Lead: what you actually need to do to manage, lead and succeed but it’s excellent. Concise wisdom is what it is.
Owen believes that using the acronym SPIN can help leaders give more constructive feedback:
- Situation specifics
- Personal impact
- Insight & interpretation
- Next steps
First of all, make sure the time and place is right. Give negative feedback in private when the person to whom you are giving it is calm. This needs to be as close to the event as possible (‘feedback, like milk, goes off fairly quickly’) but not when they are shouting and screaming!
Be specific about what happened. Using terms such as ‘unprofessional’ is not helpful and can actually be provocative. Talk about what it is in particular that is the problem (e.g. lateness to meetings).
People can argue about objective matters but not about how things make you feel. For example, saying that arriving late for meetings makes you think they don’t consider them to be important cannot be argued against.
Going down the ‘personal impact’ path allows you to talk about the issue without arguing, for example, about the number of minutes late, number of times, etc. Deal with the issue and
Insight & interpretation
Instead of telling people what to do, ask them if the impact that they’ve made (i.e. upsetting you) was the impact they wished to make. Get them to reflect on their actions. They are much more likely to value the solutions they come up with above any solution that you hand them.
Once you’ve been through the above steps, you should now be able to calmly agree ‘next steps’ between you. Focus on the future being positive and constructive. Don’t play the ‘blame game’ and avoid discussing the past at this point.
Owen advises taking time over each step and not rushing through them. Although no-one looks forward to giving negative feedback, I am happier now that I’ve got a constructive way of approaching it!
What are your thoughts?