Purpose of the session: to try out an alternative model of giving feedback (compared to how feedback 'usually' is)

There are lots of definitions of feedback and lots of different methods. This one isn't THE model, it's one that we at Tuff Leadership Training believe is effective when you work in teams involving complexity, where collaboration is really needed.

We often name our feedback sessions provocatively: "Polite or effective, it's up to you!"

How feedback is usually (how it is often taught):

  • Related to behaviour only
  • Give specific examples
  • Positive - negative - positive (or "s***t sandwich"!)
  • According to the company's template, policy, annual performance appraisal etc.

Essentially, the challenge it's designed to solve in the traditional paradigm of work is: "How do I get so-and-so to...?" (be more motivated, perform better, stop doing this etc.) We also tend to be either too polite when we give feedback, or too critical.

This is, we believe, a parent-child dynamic.

An alternative approach of feedback

We recommend that the purpose of feedback should be:

"An honest wish to contribute to the person's development, in line with their goal or something in their interest."

When you have this mindset, the feedback comes from a much more adult-to-adult place.

And contrary to popular belief, we believe it can be more powerful and transformational to give people feedback not about behaviour or examples, but about someone's way of being. We refer to this as belonging in the realm of "under the surface" (see fig. 1). These are often the things that really get in the way for people (and/or teams) to really be effective.

Figure 1

The "KLONK" feedback model

  1. Prepare - prepare what you want to say, but also how you want to be (e.g. how can I give this feedback without becoming like a parent?)
  2. Mandate - state the purpose of the feedback (briefly) and ask for the mandate to give it. This means that they choose to hear it or not, and they become jointly responsible for the conversation, not just you. ("I think I see something that gets in the way for you to be more effective as a leader, would it be ok if I gave you some feedback?")
  3. Message - give the feedback in a frank, clear way. Relate to their potential.
  4. Listen - very important! Listen so the person feels heard and 'felt' by parroting and confirming what you hear ("What I hear you saying is..." "I can hear that you are feeling..."). This helps the person process the feedback and move out of "fight or flight" and into a productive mindset. Wait for the "storm to settle". You may need to go back to the Mandate or Message box.
  5. Possibly coach - once you get a "KLONK" moment (in other words, when you hear that the penny has dropped), you could move into coaching them to find a solution (avoid giving them advice unless they ask for it!)

Remember, our intuitive response to resistance is to argue. The way out of that is to listen! (smile)

Thank you to everyone who participated and shared your insights.

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