Do you avoid giving difficult feedback? Here's how self-awareness can help.
When it comes to managing people, being able to provide regular and honest feedback is essential. For many leaders though, even the thought of initiating a difficult conversation can leave them in a sweat. In fact, difficult conversations follow closely behind public speaking when it comes to common situations that leaders tell me they avoid.
Effective workforce planning and regular communication can prevent many conversations from feeling difficult in the first place. In reality however, no amount of planning is likely to completely regulate them. If you find yourself shying away from initiating these conversations, there are a number of steps you can take to become more confident. Importantly before you turn your attention to someone else, start by paying closer attention to yourself.
- What is it about these conversations that makes you feel uncomfortable? Maybe you’ve had a bad experience in the past where emotions overtook the discussion, or perhaps you don’t feel confident in your ability to relay the required information when nervous. Regardless of the reason, understanding what lies behind the discomfort is the first step in being able to address it.
- Take the time to consider your feedback style and how you deliver information. Do you communicate a clear vision to employees to ensure they understand expectations, or could your casual approach be unintentionally toning down the importance of your message? When providing feedback, always ensure that you include specific examples of improvement opportunities and what changes you need to observe. Also regularly seek feedback from staff, peers and leaders on your approach. This assists you to verify your own beliefs and may provide you with development opportunities.
- Once you are aware of your general approach to difficult conversations, also consider your beliefs about any employee or situation that you need to discuss. If you enter a conversation already frustrated or pre-empting a battle, it can unintentionally influence your communication and overall approach. Being aware allows you to prepare for the meeting and commit to remaining focused on the facts of why you are there.
While you can’t control other people or how they will react, with some foresight and planning you’re more likely to set the scene for a successful conversation. There are many factors that can influence how a performance discussion will run, but by being self-aware you can more confidently enter the conversation and commit to remaining focused on performance improvement – your own included.