Feedback is essential to the professional development process. As you advance professionally, you will be placed in more situations in which you will need to give feedback to others. Letting your direct reports know how well they are doing is usually the enjoyable part of feedback loop. It's when a difficult message has to be given that many managers and leaders stumble. Whether the information needs to be shared with an individual, a group or an entire organization, these instances can truly become an opportunity for all parties involved. Opportunity arises when the outcome of the interaction leads to greater awareness, learning, motivation, support and creativity as well as a call to action.
Faced with this challenge-cum-opportunity, how do you actually do it?
Incorporating these approaches when you next deliver a difficult message will make the process easier for you and the person on the receiving end. As every situation is different, you need to consider unique interpersonal styles involved to determine the application of the above factors. Some will want greater compassion and need less support, while another may want you to be extremely concise (even blunt) with minimal compassion exhibited. Invest some time in considering what the receiver may prefer in this situation. This process will also allow for quicker action and resolution as well as more effective maintenance of the professional relationship. Difficult messages need not end professional (or personal) relationships. When done with care, credibility and completeness, the result can lead to a more engaged colleague who feels supported and valued.
Lastly, delivering difficult messages also serves those providing the feedback. As managers and leaders get more comfortable with this process, these messages will no longer need to be categorized as bad/good, positive/constructive. All feedback will be a tool to enhance individual, team and organizational performance providing the proverbial win-win to all involved.
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