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They say that there are three great fears. One, fear of public speaking. Two, fear of death. Three, fear of feedback. I would dare add that the fear of feedback applies to both the giver and taker.
But if you have chosen to be a project manager, giving feedback, like death would be inevitable. Even you are in a matrix organisation where no project team member reports to you, you would have to give feedback in one way or the other. And giving feedback is not all that easy. One consolation is that everyone finds it difficult.
So here are some tips on making the process of giving feedback easier and thereby more effective too.
Always remind yourself that the purpose of giving feedback is not to fix the taker or find faults and demoralise. The purpose is to bring to notice some improvement areas to the feedback taker. If you keep this higher purpose at the back of your mind, feedback would be effective.
Feedback should not focus on attitudes (“You are not a good communicator”) but on behaviours (“Your mails tend to be too long, please try making them crisper”). That too if supplanted by an incident would help further. (“The mail you sent to the customer yesterday had almost four hundred words!”)
Do not dilute the feedback because you have discomfort giving it. (“But that’s all right. It happens with everyone. Sometimes I too write long mails.”) That would negate all the effort you have put it to prepare. Sometimes this may work the other way round by strengthening an undesired behaviour.
Do not delay the feedback. Offer it close to the incident. More stale the feedback, the less effective it would be. It is like serving someone a soda which has been open for some time. By the time you serve all the fizz is gone!
But at the same time, prepare for feedback discussion. Do not walk into it casually. Choose the right words, convey your emotion and specific incidents. Be gentle but firm. Do not eat your words to placate the feedback taker.
Mail as a medium is not adequate to give feedback. You cannot convey the intensity and emotion on email. Besides any feedback has to be a two way communication which a mail cannot be.
Praise genuinely, heartily and in real time when earned. Do not praise to make up for any critical feedback you would have given in the recent past.
Follow up on the feedback at appropriate intervals. Let the feedback taker know that you are there to help when needed.
Eager to know your tips!
What would some of your favourite tips for executing a project? Eager to hear from you.
Mukund Toro is an independent Project Management Consultant who has worked with more than 1000 project managers. His 20+ years’ industry experience in software and telecommunication includes working in various capacities from project manager to director across multinationals, product and service companies and government research organisations.