Constructive Feedback: Delivering and Receiving For Continuous Improvement

Constructive Feedback: Delivering and Receiving For Continuous Improvement

May 12, 2022

My entire life I have received what I would consider constructive feedback from special guest contributor, Paul Pinchak, my father. Overall, I can attest to the fact that receiving constructive feedback allows one to see opportunities to grow, develop and feeds a drive toward continuous improvement. In 2004 my father retired from the insurance industry and has helped shape our culture and articulate our values. He has mentored and given counsel to me and many in our organization regarding management, leadership and whenever a little “constructive” feedback is in order. Many editions of Restoring Success are sprinkled with principles and values that I hold dear and were fostered by Dad.

For over 20 years, we have valued the notion of constructive feedback, so much so that it is a stated value that we all rally around. “We maintain a positive and open work environment by providing honest and constructive feedback on job performance.” While chatting with Dad about a month ago, I had said, “I am shocked how many people don’t know how to give ‘constructive feedback,’ maybe we could collaborate in my next article?”

Paul Pinchak on Constructive Feedback  

Managing the job duties, and development, of others is a serious responsibility. That first step into management or supervision requires a major shift in thinking and actions. No longer is it solely your job performance to consider; now you are responsible for others as well.

There are a wide range of approaches to helping first-time managers/supervisors settle into their new roles. Many organizations provide some type of formal training while others will leave the individual to find their own way.

Those who manage others have a lot to think about. While adapting to the new role, deliberate thought should be given to the question: “How can I help my people reach their full potential?” For a first-time manager, the prospect of counseling may be uncomfortable and even intimidating. Whether in the context of an annual review, or a session needed to address a specific performance issue, there are a few recommended considerations:

  • Use a private setting; face to face is best.
  • Prepare for the discussion by carefully thinking through what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.
  • Bring forward facts to support the issues you are addressing, do not judge or make hurtful remarks, and avoid profanities.
  • Present constructive input using a positive approach whenever possible. Good openings include: “There are a few things you can work on…let’s talk them through” or “I’ve noticed you’re having trouble with ……., let’s see if I can give you some pointers so you can do better.”

Of course, there will be times where a more direct approach is called for: “It has come to my attention that” or “As I am sure you can appreciate, this is not acceptable. Going forward you need to address this. Do you have any questions?”

There is no one standard approach to giving constructive criticism. Always, it is designed to bring about improved job performance. Considerable skill, and thought, is required. Sessions will vary in length and complexity depending on a number of considerations. There is a time and place for creating a helpful and supportive theme, and there is a time to be firm while sending a serious message.

One important lesson that experienced managers will agree on: When it is time to address an issue, doing so should not be delayed. When a performance issue is not addressed in a timely manner, it will leave the impression that all is well. Unfortunately, it is all too common that managers put off that difficult discussion. By doing so, there is quiet acceptance of the unacceptable behavior. This is called tacit approval. Addressing a problem long after it presents itself will make it that much more difficult to deal with. Also, there may be a negative effect on others who can see that the issue has not been checked.

There is a wide range of acceptable styles to counseling. As managers and supervisors develop, they should become more comfortable dealing with a variety of personalities and challenges. Most people want to do their best and should be open and receptive to constructive input if presented properly. If not, you may have the wrong person in the job.

Lisa’s Constructive Feedback on Paul Pinchak’ s Brief on Constructive Feedback

Although I like the focus on new managers, there is opportunity for all levels of experience to reflect and consider their ability in providing constructive feedback.

The concept of “helping people reach their full potential” is an important frame of mind of those in a leadership position, however we must also understand that the concept of being constructive is to deliver the feedback in a way that evokes a positive reaction and behavior change. If you deliver feedback and do not get these outcomes, it may be indicative of an opportunity to improve. The ability to positively coach and deliver feedback to others not only influences the individual but can have an impact on the morale of the entire company.

It is a great starting point to focus on managers delivering feedback, but I also think that every individual regardless of role and position needs to be able to accept and embrace constructive feedback as the receiver. Sometimes ego, perspective and other factors get in the way of one’s ability to receive constructive feedback. When receiving constructive feedback, it is important to stay objective; do not let emotions get in your way and look at it is an opportunity to grow and improve.

Constructive feedback when viewed as an opportunity to improve can come from a wide variety of relationships, a few examples include:

  1. Direct Report to Supervisor
  2. Customers
  3. Colleagues and Peers

I once recall a customer who had a fire that resulted in the extensive restoration of both their home and contents. Once complete, the customer reached out to me extremely happy and grateful to the team and then said, “I am an operations person. I am extremely pleased but would like to share with you some notes that I have that may be opportunities to improve.” I invited him to share his feedback at a company meeting. He connected with the group by sharing the positive impact that the team had on him and his family. He shared specific special moments. He also shared opportunities areas for us to improve. Even if using a surveying tool, you may notice all exceptional marks of 10and then a dip to an 8 in “communications,” this may be an opportunity to accept constructive feedback.

The tips presented for a single interaction are excellent, but I would like to add that the delivery and receipt of the feedback is best when there are healthy relationships between the individuals. An organizational culture based on trust will best provide the safety and security to accept feedback as intended. My father’s stream of constructive feedback is consistently delivered with nothing but the best intentions and that is another reason it is so well received and effective both to me and others.

May delivering and accepting constructive feedback bring you much continued Restoring Success.

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