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How To Give Feedback That Gets Results

Feedback is one of the most important and underrated skills in a leader’s toolkit. Being able to offer feedback in a manner that is both heard and understood in the way that the person takes ownership for the outcome is part of the art of leadership.

I personally use the COIN Model for giving feedback. It clearly points out the undesirable behavior and puts the accountability on the recipient for the next steps. If they still can’t get past that behavior, the next conversation would involve telling them how to do it next time.

The COIN Model
C – The Context (What, Where, When, Whom)
O – What I Observed was…
I – The Impact of that was…
N – How do you want to handle that differently Next Time? (or this is how I want you to handle it Next Time)

Here are a couple examples of the COIN Model in use:

  • “Nancy, yesterday you failed to arrive to your workstation until 20 minutes past your start time. The impact of that was that production was stalled by 20 minutes. How do you want to handle that differently next time?”
  • “Chuck, David came and spoke with me today and said that you told him that he was an idiot and that he didn’t know how to do his job. The impact of that was David became very upset and I had to spend an hour of my day meeting with him. How do you want to handle that differently next time?”
  • “Christine, yesterday you left the back door open which caused Fido to get out of the house. The impact of that was that I had to go chase him down all throughout the neighborhood, which took fifteen minutes out of my day and made me late for work. How do you want to handle that differently next time?”

The key to giving feedback is focusing the conversation around the behavior and being as specific as possible. Making blanket statements like “you are unprofessional” or “you sounded stupid up there” will do nothing to help them. You need to pinpoint the specific behaviors to help them get over.

Giving feedback isn’t only for the workplace. It’s your responsibility to give feedback to all those who you encounter on a regular basis. People cannot read your mind, so if they are displaying behaviors that are unacceptable to you, simply let them know. Often times they will be thankful for it. The absolute worst thing to do is let it fester inside of you and then explode on them with a list of everything that has upset you over the past nine months.

Other things to keep in mind while giving feedback:

  • Ask for permission first. A simple “can I give you a little feedback?” will mentally prepare the receiver for the message that is coming.
  • Be timely. Feedback should happen as close to the incident as possible. If you wait six months to deliver the feedback on an annual performance review you’ll do nothing but upset your employees and stunt their personal growth. Not giving your employees timely feedback is a disservice  to them.
  • Find a private location. Provide positive feedback in public and provide negative feedback in private. Simple as that.
  • Be calm. Don’t scream or raise your voice. There is never any reason to yell at another human being. Ever. If you lose your calm, then you’ve already lost.
  • Tell them you care. You are giving them this feedback because you care about them and you want them to succeed. Make sure they understand that.
  • Be comfortable with silence. After giving feedback allow ample time for a response. Really listen to what they have to say and help them to come to the next steps that will help them get over the undesirable behavior.
  • Give them the feedback face-to-face. There are many things that technology is good for. This is not one of those instances. Don’t hide behind the curtain of technology to have these crucial conversations.

When delivered well, feedback motivates and inspires others to do better. Personally, I love getting feedback because I realize it takes courage to have these difficult conversations. If someone takes the time and effort to bring something to my attention that will only help me, it shows that they care about my development.

And developing those around you is what being a leader is all about.

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