What Helps, Not Hinders

“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” – Brené Brown

Feedback is an investment in a relationship. Yet, we don’t always think of it that way. Sometimes, for some folks and within teams, feedback is one of those things that gets us all avoidant and brings up a lot of stuff. We worry about the way our message will land. Will that person leave? Will they unleash their unfiltered anger at me? Whatever the imagined scenario, it feels bad and never ends well. Though, what good and well-delivered feedback is bound to do is provide input and reflection that will bolster a relationship.

When it comes to creating a culture that supports the health and safety of an organization, feedback is a crucial mechanism, because our relational dynamics matter. 

It’s a different lens to look at feedback as a way to nurture a relationship. But think of it this way: if you had just met someone and they were stepping on your foot unwittingly, would you let them know, or would you just let it slide because you were worried about how they would feel or react? That’s a lot of pain to endure in order to protect someone. When it comes to our organizations, we see this time and time again: failure to deliver feedback to an employee, investor, co-founder, colleague often delays conversations that need to be had, and things that need to be said. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself: What’s at stake or what’s at risk (to the team or the company or the product) if I continue to protect this person’s feelings?

One way to think about this is: If you had a big rock in your shoe, how long would you keep walking until you took it out? Sometimes our tolerance for what’s uncomfortable or not working well works against us over time. Resentment builds the more things are left unsaid.

Failing to deliver timely reflection and input via feedback can have negative impacts that directly affect culture, performance, and relationships. Imagine an employee that isn’t performing well, and the whole team knows it. Yet, no one is willing to deliver feedback to said employee. Sometimes in an effort to be nice, we end up doing the opposite. To not be direct and clear with people is to not be honest, which is to not be real, (and therefore not authentic). But most of all, when we are not clear with someone about where they stand or fail to deliver feedback they need to hear, we are not being kind to them at all. This affects their performance, the team’s performance, and the ripples go out through the company in various ways. 

When it comes to onboarding and managing, feedback is essential and aids in the sense of psychological safety one has within the organization namely because they know their place and they know where they stand. The fundamental unit of work is a conversation. Having honest conversations helps all of us work better together. Creating a culture of feedback and having frameworks for giving feedback helps us understand our actions, intentions, and the impacts they had.

In this Podcast Extra, my colleagues Jen Cody and Andy Crissinger discuss the value of feedback. While there are many frameworks for delivering feedback, one they mention is SBI, which stands for:

  • Situation: you outline the situation you’re referring to, so that the context is clear and specific.
  • Behavior: you discuss the precise behavior that you want to address.
  • Impact: finally, you highlight the impact of the person’s behavior on you, the team and the organization.

One of the questions to ask yourself as it relates to giving feedback is how might giving feedback serve us? How might this help us reach our goals, our vision? How might this help us work better as we work together to reach that vision?