One of the most cringe-worthy sentences of all-time has to be, “Can I give you some feedback?” I bet you just heard one of your horrible boss’s voice in your head. Apologies for the PTSD. Looking back now, the title of this article should be Feedback: the most overused business phrase.
I’m not here to bash feedback as a tool. Feedback is, in fact, a critical part of every leader’s role. Every great leader uses these crucial conversations when standards aren’t being met. The very best leaders also leverage accountability as a tool for praise and recognition when standards are met.
But most leaders spend so much time figuring out what they are going to say and how they are going to document the conversation that they forget about the person on the receiving end. They may worry about how the other person may react (in relation to themselves), but never about how the other person feels.
Being able to empathize with the person on the receiving end of feedback is critical to how they will receive the feedback, and more importantly, what they will do afterward.
The goal of giving good feedback is to inspire self-reflection, a change in behavior, and professional growth. If empathy isn’t part of the equation, the person on the receiving end will put up walls to protect their ego and block all those “good intentions” from catapulting over.
Have the courage to have difficult dialogues, but at the same time have the empathy to understand what the person on the other side of the conversation is going through. It will change the dynamic of the conversation.
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