Inclusive leadership: The importance of constructive feedback
Zone’s lead business designer Amanda Forman was inspired at RISE 2022 last week and shares what she learned during an engaging and interactive session on giving feedback.
During Creative Equals’ flagship conference, RISE, Gemma Greaves, co-founder of Nurture & Partners led the audience in an activity she called the ‘Fishbowl’.
It was an opportunity for people in the room to stand up and share their personal experiences regarding feedback at work.
Below are some examples of feedback shared by participants that had been delivered inappropriately and considered quite emotionally damaging:
- “I hate all of your work. It lacks gumption!”
- “You’re not cut out for this business — oh and do you know where I can purchase some weed?”
- “I don’t think you should be a copywriter, because you’ll never get as far as native English speakers.”
- “You need to be less emotional — or can you channel it to the business goals?”
- “The CEO isn’t corporate enough.”
Feedback can be incredibly helpful, motivating and career-shaping. Or — it can be demoralising, crushing, and downright mean. In life, we are constantly looking for feedback, whether it be verbal cues, a nod or smile, or a positive affirmation that we are doing something right.
Listening to these stories got me thinking about feedback and how important it is in leadership.
Gemma shared a feedback matrix (below), which I thought was a helpful framework, as we challenge ourselves to be better at supporting people through feedback.
Giving and receiving constructive feedback can be tough. But given how damaging or empowering feedback can be, it’s a skill we all need to be practising.
Things managers should think about before soliciting employee feedback
Why am I giving feedback to this person?
When providing feedback, understanding where you are in the quadrant is helpful for clarity. It can be easy to avoid giving hard feedback to someone, even if we know they need it. Knowing the reasons behind the feedback can help us make the right decision. Are we helping someone on our team grow? Are we moving the team forward to a better result for your clients? Understanding the ‘why’ can help us frame what we want to say.
Is the feedback clear enough?
Telling someone ‘I just don’t like it’ or ‘it’s not good enough’ without any idea of how to move forward is lazy leadership and unhelpful to team members. Why is it not resonating with you? How will it impact team or company goals? It’s important to explain this to employees, as it provides guidance on how to make the relevant improvements while encouraging professional growth.
Am I in the right headspace to give good feedback at this moment?
If you’re feeling frazzled, tired, or irritated for whatever reason — it might be good to decide whether it’s the right time to respond. Shooting off a quick comment when one isn’t mentally in a good space can be more damaging than helpful. Before giving feedback, always check your emotional state.
Do we have regular rhythms of feedback?
Giving feedback should not only be done in a crisis. Creating psychologically safe spaces for regular feedback — regardless of how things are going — is an important rule of thumb. This could be regular retros, check-ins with no agendas, etc. Providing regular feedback means there is space to discuss things — both good and bad — without needing to call for a special session.
Sometimes, people will push back on the feedback we give them. It’s natural for people to protest feedback they think is unfair or don’t understand. During that moment — we can decide if we’re going to be defensive or demonstrate what it looks like to have a constructive conversation.
As leaders, we can model what it looks like to both give and receive constructive feedback. We are all better in the end for it!