Struggling on How to Kick Off a Feedback Session? Try These 3 Tips!

This Blanchard guest post is by Certified Professional Coach Antonio Estrada.

I once conducted interview-based 360-degree assessments with three executives in the automotive industry.

Coming in as a third party consultant, I perceived a cautious skepticism from the leaders under review.

I decided, right at the onset, to create an environment conducive to their learning from the feedback they would be receiving. My goal was to help them be receptive to the comments and to avoid the thought that often comes by default when reading negative feedback: Who could have said that?

My clients and I worked together during the first meeting and agreed to navigate the process while bearing in mind the following three principles:

  1. The feedback you will receive is not you. It is how others observe you. As Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson discuss in their book The New One Minute Manager®, when giving negative feedback—a re-direct, as they call it in the book—you want to get rid of the bad behavior but keep the good person. As soon as I said this to my clients, their sense of relief was noticeable even over the phone. I even pictured them nodding in agreement as they thought about the separation between who they are and how others may perceive their behaviors. I could feel them becoming more relaxed as they began to open up and ask vulnerable questions.
  2. Intention + observable behaviors = impact. I developed this equation as a simple illustration for myself and others of how, by aligning our observable behaviors with our intention, we can generate the impact we desire. Interestingly, after I shared this equation, the leaders identified on their own the behaviors they needed to improve to increase their impact and performance.
  3. Don’t waste energy trying to identify who said what. Although the 360-degree assessment is a tool for development, not for performance review, it is natural to respond with some emotion when receiving the feedback. It often triggers a fight-or-flight response. To help my clients avoid worrying about who said what, I asked them to focus instead on thinking: If this feedback were true, what could I learn from it? The leaders found this thought very liberating. They realized the exercise was not about finger-pointing. This way of thinking reassured them that the process was for them to learn about and become aware of areas for improvement.

After looking at the feedback with these principles in mind, the leaders expressed their enthusiasm for the process and saw it as an opportunity to further develop their leadership skills. Because of their positive attitude, the debriefs went smoothly—even though the feedback included acknowledging some hard truths.

One client stated, “This has been the best feedback exercise I’ve experienced. I now know the behaviors I need to work on when crafting my development plan.”

I have used and shared these three principles with many clients, with great results. I’m certain you’ll find similar success in feedback sessions you are facilitating. Have you used similar principles in the past? Try it! And please share your experiences in the comments section.

About the Author

Antonio Estrada HeadshotAntonio Estrada, MBA, Engineer and Certified Professional Coach is a member of Blanchard Coaching Services network of executive and leadership coaches.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

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