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5 Ways to Give Feedback Without Hurting Feelings

Are you a leader who needs to give feedback to your team? Are you worried about hurting your team's feelings?

When a leader has done their planning alongside their team, has a clear vision, clear roles, and open lines of communication, then feedback is automatically built in, as members of the team can check against that scale or standard. If the project objective or process components are not clear, and nor is the end result, leaders will find themselves needing to give feedback and micromanaging throughout. Or, worse off, have post-project meetings that offer feedback that serves no real purpose but to compensate for mismanagement; feedback that is neither constructive at that point, nor a reflection of the team, but the leader. This disengages the team, as they have not been part of the process, and they feel like they are neither competent nor successful. It damages relationships.

Leaders are teachers, and feedback is vital to any learning process. In the education world, we refer to it as assessment for learning and assessment as learning. The workplace mainly focuses on assessment of learning; feedback most often arrives to the team as performance evaluations, when a project is completed. Although a project includes multiple regroupings along the way, feedback is not always infused in these check-in points to change the direction of the work or improve the process. This is sometimes a result of short timelines. Feedback can be brief, but needs to be mindful. Leadership plays the role of modeling how the feedback process works. In order for feedback to be constructive but not hurtful, leaders need to communicate their vision, enlist the right people, assign clear roles and clear division of labor, and then outline check-in dates for feedback.

The best way to initiate this discussion is to ask team members to self-assess their own work, list what has been successful, what needs improvement, who is the best person to help them through, etc. Coaching team members through self-assessment, allows leaders to add feedback to what individuals already recognize for themselves and the learning process.

In order for team members to feel like they are part of the feedback process, prepare them with these questions, at multiple stages of the process, not the end:

How has the overall experience been so far?

At which points did you feel the most successful?

At which points did you feel like you needed the most support?

What changes would you suggest at this point?

What support do you need to make these changes?

It is within this framework that you can incorporate your feedback.

At this point, your feedback is part of a conversation of which the team member is actually part of, rather than a receiver of your comments.

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