Feedback is a very common theme here at Brunch, where we strive to facilitate interactions and collaborations in a team and between digital agencies and their clients working remotely. We wanted a faster, more concise way of communicating when developing a website, one that doesn’t imply calls, print screens, and long email threads.
We’ve built a tech tool that aims to do just that for people working on live websites. But what should this feedback be like, what should we know about giving and receiving it, if we want results?
To answer this question, we invited one of the best-known specialists from Romania, Radu Glont – Negotiation Advisor & Trainer at Leverage Romania, to tell us more about efficient feedback.
There are many opinions when it comes to feedback: some say one should combine negative and positive feedback (sandwich feedback), others say that change is possible only by focusing on one type of feedback at a time.
Radu Glont believes that this separation between positive and negative feedback itself creates a false dilemma that unnecessarily complicates the lives of those who have to give feedback.
”I choose to see feedback as being only something constructive, without limiting myself to thinking if it is positive or negative” he adds.
But first of all, let’s start by defining feedback. Negotiation Advisor Radu Glont believes this is an essential part of any communication process, that aims to make a change. It can be related to knowledge, skills, or attitude, but if the goal is triggering a change for the better, then we should focus on the topic and not on the person.
Furthermore, successful feedback also depends on how prepared that person is to integrate it.
“Ego varies from one person to another and it is important to adapt. Some can react really well to praising because they need external validation. That’s when you should take into account their needs to be Appreciated, Independent or their need for Status.
Others react better to honesty and feel like they are fooled if you’re not telling them directly what you think and what they said or did wrong.” Radu says.
It’s very important to keep the context and the culture in mind. For example, Radu highlights that in Japan, it is very common to get more social with your employers and let them know what you think. In the USA, sandwich feedback (or “shit sandwich” as it is called) is preferred. In the Netherlands, feedback is harsh and abrupt, while in France, it is more emotional.
“At Leverage, we are encouraging an organizational culture focused on continuous learning. Thus, colleagues’ feedback is something common that isn’t given only at formal reviews. We ask and give feedback anytime we feel to – every month, week, or even day.
At one of our feedback sessions, my colleague talked to me about how I gave feedback to her and how she actually preferred it. She told me that she didn’t like sandwich feedback because it created confusion and it could even lead to a lack of trust. My intention, of course, was to be polite, but it didn’t make that much sense to her”.
Once again, this proves how important it is to adapt our feedback to the receiver and to the nature of our relationships.
If he were to make a top of the most important recommendations to take into account, regardless of whom you are giving feedback to, Radu emphasizes “sincerity, clarity, being concise and on point, paying attention to the receiver in order to not hurt their ego”.
How are things changing when we give feedback to someone, we have a personal relationship with?
Given that there’s a closer relation, the importance of feedback changes. But there’s one common trait we shouldn’t ignore: feedback doesn’t happen between companies, but people, even in a more professional environment.
“Probably, people are more sensitive when given feedback from someone they are closer to. At the same time, they might be more open to it and less defensive.
Within professional relations, we tend to be more pragmatic and to try not to take things that personally – as if that would be possible:).
We are people, not companies or departments. Can you describe to me 2 companies giving feedback to each other? Aren’t we actually looking at people communicating to each other, people who have their own ego and worries?”
A good option of giving feed-back
Ego seems to play a main role in the feedback process and Radu’s constant advice is to make sure we are not offending people’s feelings. But what happens when the receiver does become defensive? How are we supposed to react?
First of all, Radu says, it is vital to understand how one receives feedback. There are 3 main scenarios:
“1. Denial – <<I am NOT late; you scheduled the meeting too early>>. Immediate effect: rejection of feedback.
2. Avoidance – <<There was more traffic than usual, everyone drops their kids at school at this hour>>. Immediate effect: avoiding feedback, still a type of rejection.
3. Acceptance – <<You are right, I am late and I understand this can impact the dynamic of this meeting. I am sorry for the delay and I’ll see what I can do the next time to make it on time.>> …despite the traffic. It’s vital to understand you weren’t late because of the traffic or because the meeting was too early. It was because of the way you organized your time. And this is something you can change if you accept this gift called feedback.
If someone is in one of the first two scenarios, my recommendation is to change the way you give them feedback. Let them know what they can win or lose if they implement a change. And be empathetic: <<I understand such feedback can be uncomfortable and I’ve been through this a lot when I was given feedback. But I learned it didn’t matter if I was right or not. What mattered was if I managed to change other people’s perception. So, I decided to act differently and this helped me the most on the long term>>. You can even add the story above with the 3 general reactions to feedback.”
Then, it’s about the end goal: what do you want to get out of your feedback giving?
“Are you looking to be right or happy? –this saying helped me in the past and I would like to explain it. When you are giving feedback, do you want to let your client know they are wrong or do you want to solve a problem that blocks a process?
It is better to start by letting them know what they are right about. Then start bringing arguments that show how change could be beneficial. Take them on your side and make decisions together”. Radu says.
Is there a process?
Yes, he thinks and quotes the best example, from his point of view – the one detailed by Reed Hastings & Erin Meyer in their book, “No rules rules”:
1. Aim to assist
Feedback should be given with positive intent. Giving feedback to get frustration off your chest, hurt the other person or further your agenda isn’t tolerated. When you give feedback clearly explain how a specific behavior will help the individual or company. Let’s say someone has a bad habit of talking over people in meetings. Instead of going confronting them and stating “you’re rude” instead suggest “We missed some really important points which we had not considered before”.
The feedback needs to focus on what they can do differently. Similar to the point above, it needs to be something they can do. If there’s nothing the individual can do about it, think twice before saying it.
It’s natural for us to be defensive or provide excuses when receiving criticism; we want to protect our ego and reputation. When someone gives you feedback you need to instead show appreciation and listen carefully, consider it with an open mind and don’t become defensive or angry.
4. Accept or discard
You are likely to receive lots of feedback. You should listen and consider all feedback; however, you aren’t required to follow it. Acknowledge and appreciate it but both parties should understand that the decision to react upon that feedback is entirely up to the recipient.
To conclude, we also thought it was important to talk about asking for feedback and not only about offering it. So how should we ask for feedback from our clients so that the answer is not too vague or aggressive?
There are various ways and questions we can ask, Radu adds:
- “What do you think about my proposal? – this can lead to a politically correct answer
- What do you feel about my proposal? – this can lead to a more honest and actionable answer. You can then add follow-up questions such as Why? What could I do better in order to achieve our common goals? What would you do differently if you were me? How would you solve this?
- Another option that works are clear questionnaires with scores from 1 to 6 about things they appreciate and why, with examples, things they don’t appreciate and why, proposals for future actions and an NPS. This survey can be doubled by a more informal get together, over a coffee, to learn not only what the other person thinks, but also what they feel about our relations or project”.
We hope this material will help you give and ask for better feedback from your clients!