WHEN YOU ARE IN a leadership role, you are frequently in the position of giving other people critical feedback. And in criticism, as in comedy, timing is everything.
When you’re giving constructive feedback (including positive feedback, although I’m focusing on constructive criticism below), try to give that feedback as soon as possible. Here’s why:
- The issue(s) will be fresh in everyone’s mind.
- You’ll waste less time ruminating over it (if it’s critical feedback) or rehearsing it (whether it’s positive or negative).
- You’ll bring closure to the situation quickly. The longer you wait, the other person may wonder why you did, or they may have forgotten about it already and feel blindsided when you bring it up.
Here’s how to give constructive feedback:
- Do it in person. It’s the only way to pick up on the body language so critical to making sure your message is being received as intended. Handle this part badly by doing it by phone or email and the person will remember this negative event for years.
- Do it one-on-one. The other person will appreciate the privacy.
- Focus on the facts, not your emotions. Criticism is a dish best served cold. If you’re upset about the situation, talk with a third party to lower your upset before discussing it directly with the person it involves.
- Discuss the behavior, not the character of the person. Even agreeing on what happened is sometimes difficult. Getting someone to accept your view of why they did whatever they did may be next to impossible. Focus on the behavior itself and leave it up to them to explain their actions.
- Ask questions. Make sure you learn as much as you can about the behavior you’re giving critical feedback about. Your willingness to listen may make the other person open to whatever feedback you’re providing.