How leaders can foster talent: Giving feedback in tough conversations

Ann O'Mahony 22.05.2018

Julia Rowan, of Performance Matters, spoke at our Espresso Breakfast Briefing on how to effectively build and deliver a feedback relationship with your employees.

Julia is an experienced training consultant and executive coach with 25 years' experience in areas such as banking, marketing, public relations and lobbying and author of Time matters - making the most of your day. During the Espresso Breakfast Briefing, Julia talked about The Tough Conversation, the main topic of about 70% of  all coaching sessions. Leaders and managers often struggle to find the right words to deliver negative feedback to their employees. As "the tough conversations" can be related to behavioural issues, attitude or an employee's performance, by failing to express their thoughts fairly and honestly managers could damage the relationship with their subordinates.       

How to deliver negative feedback effectively? 

Start with Establishing a Feedback Relationship

It is essential to have an initial “talking about talking” conversation to agree on the baseline from which to work. One of the most common reasons why managers struggle to deliver negative massages to their employees is that employees weren't prepared to receive the negative feedback. If an employee expects to receive feedback in a certain way, format and an agreed date, both a manager and an employee can physically and mentally prepare for the tough conversation.

Extra tip: the earlier the feedback relationship is established in the relationship, the better the outcome will be.

Follow the 3 Cs standards. These quick and easy to incorporate guidelines will help you to increase the effectiveness of the tough conversation. 

  • Context: outline the reason why you are having the conversation
  • Conversation: describe what the conversation will look like and what points will be discussed 
  • Consent: come to an agreement and give/receive permission

 

The BOFF Tactic   

During conversation with their employees, managers should always refer to facts. To address all the points you are planning to discuss with your employee, try to use the BOFF model: 

1. Behaviour: Start with describing the instance or pattern of behaviour that you have observed (remember to stick to facts)

2. Outcome: Explain the result of such behaviour on others

3. Feelings: Express your feelings (positive or negative) about the issue

4. Future: The last step is yo ask your employee to change their behaviour. 

Extra tip: Use the behaviour as an anchor for what you wish to talk about, then pick and mix from outcome, feelings or future as appropriate.

The 13 Questions

Conversations happen in the moment. When we're under pressure, the wrong words can slip out, an issue can get side-tracked or fudged which could lead to inconclusive or an unsatisfactory outcome. By planning the tough conversations, managers can have more control over their own contribution towards the discussion. Below you will find a list of 13 questions that will prepare you for the conversation. By thinking through and writing down the answers to these questions, you will sort your thoughts and be able to deliver clear, effective feedback and achieve a positive outcome.

1. What is your intention in giving this feedback? What are you trying to achieve?

2. Has the need to give feedback arisen from a specific incident or a serious of incidents? Have you addressed the issue before? Have you ignored it? Are you “getting in early, keeping it light” or has this been building for a while?

3. What is the Behaviour that you want your employee to change? Describe that behaviour.

4. What is the Outcome (or potential outcome) of this behaviour?

5. How do you Feel about this? (Why is it important? Why are you concerned?)

6. In Future, what do you want the person to do or stop doing?  Do more of/less of?

7. When the conversation is over:

     a. What do you want them to think? (What should be in their head in the end?)

     b. How do you want them to feel? (motivated, hopeful, sober, worried…)

8. How would you know if the problem did not exist anymore?

9. How big a deal is this? Could other issues be clouding your judgement?

10. Is it more appropriate to give feedback directly or to ask the other person for their input? (“I want to talk to you about….. how do you think you’re getting on?)

11. How do you feel about giving your employee this feedback? Describe your feelings as honestly as  possible. (Nervous, angry, frustrated, puzzled, proud, confident….)

12. How can you make sure that your feelings help you give feedback appropriately?

13. What might some useful exit strategies be?

Ann O'Mahony's picture
Operations Director
annomahony@morganmckinley.ie