Here's a brief follow-up to my recent post about how to offer negative feedback... Adam Bryant recently interviewed Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images, for his excellent Corner Office column in the New York Times. Klein explains how he learned to pause before offering negative feedback. Here's an except from the interview:
I’ve learned a lot from my executive coach. Anytime someone came to me to show me their work, I would critique it. I would almost behave like a schoolteacher — my mother was a teacher — and bring out the metaphorical red pen. And what I didn’t appreciate at the time is that before you mess around the edges, you’ve got to say to yourself, “Am I going to make this significantly better, or am I going to make it only 5 or 10 percent better?” Because in fiddling over the small stuff, you take away all the empowerment. Basically it no longer becomes that person’s work. And after a while, those people get into the habit of giving you incomplete work, and then you have to do it for them.
I also used to always debate and argue whatever point was under discussion. And my coach said: “You’ve got to stop. You’ve got to pause, and think, ‘Are you debating the point to get a better outcome or because you just like getting the last word and you like winning?’ If you’re debating to get a better outcome, absolutely do it. If you’re debating because of the latter, cut it out.”
I would add one other question that you should ask yourself in these situations. When someone comes to me, am I truly listening to them? Or, am I already preparing my rebuttal before they have completed their thought? In many cases, we prepare our critique before the idea has been communicated fully. Active listening not only shows respect to the other party, but it helps us understand their rationale more effectively.