Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Giving Negative Feedback

Geoffrey Tumlin has a very useful article at Fast Company on the art of giving negative feedback.  Here are several of his key tips:
  •  Offer an example!  Don't just tell someone that they have a generic problem (you have poor presentation skills).  Give them a concrete example (talk about the meeting last week where they did not pace their presentation well and ran out of time before conveying crucial information). 
  • Focus on a problem that the other party can fix.  As Tumlin says, "If you tell Jim that he’s a bad presenter (a criticism), how does he fix that? But if you tell him he had too many slides during yesterday’s client pitch (feedback), you’ve pointed out something that he can fix.
  • Be concise.  In many instances, we don't extract ourselves from the conversation.  Out of our discomfort, we keep the dialogue going, even after we have conveyed our key point.  Tumlin explains, "Length doesn’t correlate to success when it comes to delivering negative feedback; long conversations confuse as often as they clarify. Your goal is to communicate the negative feedback, not to produce a dazzling epiphany, a heartfelt apology, or a ton of emotive dialogue. Once you’ve communicated your message, get out of the conversation, and allow time and space for the feedback to work." 
 I would add one other tip to this terrific set of recommendations.  If possible, offer examples of how others overcame a similar problem.  For instance, if a student is struggling with their job search, I may notice that they are stumbling on a particular aspect of that search (e.g. interview skills).  If I can offer them an example (disguised perhaps) of another student who overcome this particular challenge, that can be helpful.  It conveys a path to improvement, and it gives them confidence that they too can fix this problem.  

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