Lesson Transcript

Peter: Welcome to Effective English, practical language lessons for the business-minded individual. I'm Peter Galante, founder of InnovativeLanguage.com, and thank you for joining me.
Language is a tool for communication. However, even though people speak the same language, ideas and thoughts are often not communicated. Effective communication is not just about the words, relationships, personal branding, and persuasion, among other techniques matter when you convey your message. In this series, you will learn about communication and leadership from Andrew Manterfield, a coach and facilitator for multiple Fortune 500 companies. Andrew is a managing director for SudaManterfield Consulting, which advises companies on different aspects of leadership.
Welcome to the program, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you for having me, Peter.
Peter: Today's topic: managing difficult conversations, giving feedback.
Today, you're going to learn, 1, what feedback is exactly; 2, why giving it is difficult and how to overcome that; and 3, how to give proper feedback with the SBI structure.
Let's begin and set the foundation. So, listeners will know, Andrew, what is feedback?
Andrew: Feedback is data. It's somebody's opinion on the impact that something or someone has had on them. And the important thing about good feedback is it's something that you can actually take action on, you can do something with it.
Peter: Can you give us an example of that?
Andrew: Well, one of my favorite examples is the thumbs up on Facebook. It's great to get a thumbs up on Facebook, but why am I getting a thumbs up? People like it, but I don't know how to do more of what they like because I haven't got the detail, I haven't got the example, I don't know the real impact I'm having. Is it a thumbs up one out of five or five out of five?
Peter: That's a great point. Did they like the picture? Did they like the person in it? Did they like me? Yeah. It's always nice when someone goes into a little bit more detail in the comment section after their thumbs up, right?
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. Because then I've got something that I can either replicate if it's good, or I can stop doing if it's not so good.
Peter: Excellent. So, keeping this in mind, why are we talking about feedback today?
Andrew: I think we can see in the world we live in with things like the thumbs up and the smiley faces, people really want to know how they are doing and they're constantly looking for feedback. I think if you then think about that in our day-to-day lives, and especially in our working lives, sharing your experience that you're having with another person can be very beneficial to them in terms of encouraging them to do more of the same or to maybe change their behavior a little bit with the things that don't work so well.
Peter: Agreed. Everyone wants to know how they're doing. Just so we know, can you give me an example of giving feedback to someone who's doing well, something concrete?
Andrew: Yeah, sure. So, if I think of an example of -- Peter, I want to share with you something. Last week, we had a meeting on Thursday at 10 o'clock to look at our budgets. One of the things that really impressed me about that meeting was the fact that you sent the agenda out two/three days before, you had engaged everybody. It was clear on what the meeting was for. We had our pre-reading, everything. For me, I felt really confident and I knew what that meeting was about. During the meeting, you kept it structured. So, I was motivated because we were on time. It was a really good meeting. So, please do more of it.
Peter: That's so interesting. The tone in your voice and the way you said it makes a person feel really good. Is there a difference between the digital and in-person type of feedback?
Andrew: Yeah. I think if you're not face-to-face with somebody, you need to just think through what's the best information I can give this person. How can I do it? Because you're not going to see the reaction back, but I think it's the same sort of thing. You'd talk about when it was. You would talk about what happened, et cetera, et cetera, similar to what we did now. My suggestion would be as much as possible, do it face-to-face, or if you can't do it face-to-face, maybe telephone, you know? Just so it's easier and there's less chance of it being miscommunicated.
Peter: Yeah. When you do it face-to-face, in person, it allows the listener to see your facial expressions. And by phone, hear your tone intonation, which can convey your emotion and illustrate your sincerity. But let's just quickly go over a digital example. It would be something along the lines of what you just said.
Andrew: So, if I was going to send you an email, same sort of thing. "Hi, Peter. I am writing to you about the meeting last week. Thank you for organizing it. There are a few things I wanted to share with you that I think went really well." They're not probably bullet point, the list of things that went well. And then I'd say something like, "Please carry on doing this in the future and encourage other people to do." Final thing I'd probably say is, "And if you need anything more, if you have any questions about what I've written, just let me know. Call or write back to this email."
Peter: Even though we're just for all playing here, it's so rewarding and it's so satisfying to get that type of message, even if it's not a senior person but even from a colleague because these type of things in life, most things that you are doing, you're working hard at, and to have that acknowledged in a positive way, really makes the person feel extremely good and also probably encourages them to do more of it.
Andrew: Yeah. One of the benefits as well, Peter, of receiving written feedback is you can also go back to it, you can go back and look at it again and again. So, keep that in mind. If I'm going to say to you the meeting went well because -- if I'm putting it in writing, the next time you can go back and go, "What worked?" So, there is a benefit. There's a benefit from doing the written feedback.
Peter: Now, everyone likes to feel good, but I have to admit there have been a few times when my meetings did not go so well. How about constructive feedback? Will you want someone to stop doing something or change their ways a bit of someone had a really rough meeting?
Andrew: It's the same approach really. So, if I took the example of before and I could say, "Peter, when we had the meeting last week, 10 o'clock on Thursday, when we were talking about budgets, I'd like to share with you some of the things I saw. I noticed that during the meeting, you were distracted by your telephone. I don't know what was going on, but a few times, you picked up your telephone and you looked at it, and I noticed other people in the room were looking and distracted from the agenda. So, I think it had an impact on the team and it had an impact on me because I was a bit unsure of what was going on. I was worried about you as an individual and thinking 'has he got something going on outside of work?' But I was also worried for us in the meeting in terms of it didn't create the right atmosphere for a great meeting. So, maybe next time, put the phone on silent or just move it out of the way as a distraction."
Peter: And for this type of message, again, ideally in person or over the telephone, but also email can work, too.
Andrew: Yeah, this is more difficult. I think it's more difficult when you're giving this sort of feedback in an email, because you can't see, you can't feel my genuine concern and care for you in the fact that I don't want you to have that sort of impact on people. I know you can do better than this. I've seen you when you're giving your full attention. So, I think if you're going to do it in email, do it as a last option, but then maybe do some of what I've just been doing now. Recognize that the person doesn't usually do this maybe. Say what the benefit would be of improving, you know? The worst thing you can do is leave people with something in writing that leaves them feeling like, "I'm a bad person and I failed."
Peter: It's so interesting. Both types of feedback have shared certain things. And what I'm noticing is that the first thing is you identify the situation, after that, the behavior, and finally, the impact. So, we could say, 1, the situation; 2, the behavior; and 3, the impact. In our example, the situation was?
Andrew: The meeting.
Peter: The behavior?
Andrew: In the first one, we were talking about what we saw the person do. In the second one, we were still doing the same. We're talking about what we saw the person doing, the behavior.
Peter: And the impact?
Andrew: Yeah. And that's like this is how it made me feel. Yeah. Sometimes you can talk about other people, but it's always best to talk about how it made me feel because that's more ownership, much more ownership.
Peter: I think that this is such an important statement. Can you say it just one more time?
Andrew: The piece about ownership? Yeah, about how it makes me feel. If I say to you, "We had a meeting and the impact you had on these three people was…" straight away, if I got that, I'd think, "Why are they not telling me? Why are you telling me?" Because I'm not owning it. If I tell you how I feel, that is the truth for me. So, it's easier for somebody else to accept it. It's much easier to accept it rather than if I tell you what I think other people feel and how you impacted them. There's not as much power. And it makes so much sense. It's about the two people and the impact that their actions had on you.
Peter: Andrew, one of the interesting things about feedback for me is actually the flow and frequency of feedback, and I'm hoping we can touch on this point today because how often you give feedback is, seems to me, a very important part of the process. I think the best example of this can be illustrated through when someone says, "We need to talk." Seems like the feedback has been building up, building up. They haven't been communicating, and finally, they're at a point where it's past the point of no return, and after someone says, "We have to talk," it's usually not good. So, let's try to include today the frequency of feedback and how that can be effective. Maybe if my ex-girlfriend just told me she didn't like this one thing early, I could have fixed that rather than letting it build up to, "We need to talk."
Andrew: Yeah. A couple of rules you hear people talk about is relevant and timely. So, the right message at the right time is really important. And I often say to people a couple of things. Watch out for becoming a feedback junkie. So, don't ask for feedback all the time because after a while, people will maybe try and avoid you. And also, if you're giving feedback, just realize that it is a gift and we only get gifts at certain times like birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. So, you don't have to keep giving gifts to people every single day, or else the gift loses its impact.
Peter: Makes total sense. Now, Andrew, what about timeliness? What is a good amount of time to wait before giving feedback?
Andrew: It needs to be relevant really. That's the first thing that I'd say. And also, use your judgment. If you think about our meeting example, if I waited until, say, your appraisal six months later and said, "That meeting six months ago," you'll be thinking, "Which meeting am I talking about?" So, really thinking when is the best time and as near to when you've seen the behavior is best. The other thing to think about is if somebody's done something and they leave the meeting and you can see it might not be the time to go and speak to them, so they maybe look a bit upset or they look a bit angry, you might go, "Let me just wait a few minutes and then I'll go and talk to them," or, "Maybe I'll talk to them this afternoon." But just use your intuition around when is going to be the right time, but it's a great question.
Peter: Okay, Andrew, just a recap. One, we understand what feedback is. It is?
Andrew: Yeah. Feedback is data. It's a snapshot in time. I often describe it as it's like a photograph. So, you're describing the photograph and then you're telling me the impact that has on me is.
Peter: In order to give feedback, we state three things. Number one?
Andrew: The situation.
Peter: Number two?
Andrew: The behavior.
Peter: And number three?
Andrew: The impact it had on me.
Peter: We pay attention to timeliness, of course. It should be relevant in time. And finally, best practice, if you can, give feedback in person or?
Andrew: Yeah. The best thing to do is to do it face-to-face. Second I'd say to you, do it on the telephone. And then thirdly, if you really need to, you can do it in writing. But as we said before, there's sometimes an advantage in that because you can get more information in. But put yourself in the shoes of the other person and think about what would they see when they read it.
Peter: Now that we know what feedback is and we have a structure to give it, let's address another problem. Let's be honest. Giving feedback is not easy for everyone. In fact, it can be quite challenging. So, Andrew, why is giving feedback so hard?
Andrew: Yeah. Well, even the word "feedback" for some people makes them start to get nervous, and it's really about us, the person giving the feedback. We worry. We worry about the impact it will have on our relationship with the other person. Will they like me after I've given them this feedback? If it's in a work environment, will they still do what I ask them to do in the future after I've given them this feedback? So, it really is there are all these things in our mind, the stories we're building about what might happen if we tell somebody something that we've seen about them.
Peter: It's so interesting. I really like what you said. I think relationship is very important. At our company, we often run into -- I don't want to say trouble, but difficulties when someone becomes a manager. The things they used to say to their colleagues are no longer taken so lightly as another colleague would say. For the manager, I think the mindset is the same, but now, the person who is not the manager who's receiving the feedback, for them it's almost like "Oh, now you're telling me what to do?" We've had this experience in the company. So, I think to understand your relationship and then selecting the way to give your feedback, is this a good starting point?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, your example is a great example, and that of relationships change it. Before, we might be peers, we're friends, and then all of a sudden, you're my boss and you're the person who decides whether I get, for example, a salary increase, decides how I'm seen by the leadership in the company. The relationships changed, and I think it goes back to the idea of relationships are important in feedback. So, I'm now looking at you in a different way, and you're looking at me in a different way. The key thing is to try and get that out the way and just see each other as two individuals trying to do their best, and we're supporting each other to do our best.
Peter: Based on my own personal experience, something that's helped me is the mindset of the person giving the feedback. If you feel like you're giving the feedback to really help the person, in my experience, it really helps me to present the feedback in the right tone with the right wording and in the right way, and it's often received very well. What are your thoughts on the mindset of the person giving the feedback?
Andrew: Yeah. I think there's a huge link because your words and your tone reflect what you're thinking, even if you don't think it does. So, if you're thinking feedback is difficult, when I give you feedback, I will talk to you like this is difficult for me. If I think I really care about Peter and I want to help him his development and I know this can help him, I'm going to talk to you in that way, and you're going to receive it in that way, and you'll probably receive it easier if I have that mindset. So, seeing feedback as a gift, seeing it as something that's helpful, and seeing potential in the person to do better is a useful thing to have in your mind when you're about to give feedback.
Peter: So, let's bring together the points we've covered up to now and illustrate how we can overcome these fears and challenges we have in giving feedback.
Andrew: There are three things really. The first one we've talked about is user framework. The second one we've talked about is focus on the behavior, and especially the impact of the behavior rather than talking about the person. The final thing is to have the right mindset, the mindset that this is a gift. I'm giving you feedback as a gift.
Peter: Andrew, I think this one is so important and it comes down to wording. Focus on the behavior and the impact rather than the person. So, instead of saying, "I thought you did not do something well," which can be very jarring, you might want to rephrase it as something, "I thought the presentation lacked a bit of…" You're not calling the person. You're not addressing the person directly but rather refocusing, as you said, on the behavior and the impact rather than the person.
Andrew: Yeah. Your example is great, Peter. And it's like simple phrases like, "When you did this in the meeting," rather than, "You don't listen." There's a subtle difference, but what you're doing is you're talking about the behavior rather than labeling you as somebody who doesn't listen. The best example is you'll see this with children, and people will often talk to their children, and rather than saying, "You're a bad girl or a bad boy," they'll say, "When you did this, this is what happened, when you behave like that." So, with my daughter, for example, I'll talk to her about how would a princess behave. You know? So, you're talking about the behavior rather than labeling the person, you know? Because a lot of people, if you label as they grow older, they'll start believing that in themselves and going, "Yeah, I'm somebody who doesn't listen", or, "I'm somebody who isn't very good at this." It's not actually true. It's just not one of your key strengths. Yeah. So, it's very important that idea of not labeling.
Peter: So, Andrew, now we know, 1, what feedback is; 2, why giving feedback is difficult and how to overcome that, and we've covered a lot of great material up until this point. So, is there a system or a structure or guidelines that you use?
Andrew: Yeah. You'll see lots of companies use what we've been talking about today, and they call it SBI. So, if you looked, if you searched on Google, you'd find the model. It's Situation, Behavior, and Impact. And if you think about our conversation so far, that's the structure we've been following.
Peter: Let's illustrate everything we've covered to this point in an example. You were just in an IT meeting and your coworker who is an expert on the topic of the meeting did not say a word. You know that coworker had valuable information to add but didn't say anything.
Andrew: The first thing I'd do is just get the person's attention and say, for example, "Hey, Susan, have you got five minutes just for a quick chat before we move on to our next meeting?" Then I would follow the model and I'd say, "Hey, the meeting today was about sharing our expertise." You know, talk about the situation. I'd then talk about the behavior. So, I'd say, "Susan, you're an expert in this area. We really appreciate your knowledge, experience, and practical things you've done in the past. I noticed today you seemed a little bit quieter than usual. Yeah? Usually, you're not the one who's always sharing and in front of everything, but you're chipping in with little bits of gold, things that are really useful. But today, you seem very quiet. And the impact it seemed to have on the meeting, and specifically on me, I was feeling like, ‘What's wrong with Susan? This is not the usual Susan.’ So, I was a little bit distracted and I think other people were. Also, the other thing is I feel like we missed something in the meeting because we didn't get your expertise and your genius."
Peter: That was so well said. It really summed up everything and put it in such a way that if I were Susan, I would feel very comfortable sharing why I did not volunteer more information. It's so radically different than, "Susan, what's going on? How come you didn't say anything?" which is probably a normal reaction, a normal emotional reaction for someone. But you can see the difference in the two. So, to recap, make sure to provide the situation, their behavior, and the impact that it had.
Now, Andrew, if you give someone feedback, do you think it really matters that you follow up again, or is your job done just giving the feedback?
Andrew: It really depends on the person in the situation. If we think about the example with Susan that we just gave, I would probably say, "If you want to talk to me about this further at any point, please let me know." So, I call it like leaving the door open for Susan to come and talk to me again, or also for me to go and talk to Susan again. Again, this is intuitive, but if you watch Susan's body language and she leaves and she's a bit unsure, you might leave her for a while and then maybe the next day say, "Hey, Susan, you've got two minutes? Can we just have a quick chat? Have you had any reflections on our conversation yesterday? Anything more you need from me?" that sort of thing.
Peter: One of the immediate reactions I had when you presented your feedback to Susan was that I wanted to say, "Susan, if you would like to practice before your next meeting, my door is always open." Like you said, leave the door open. And it makes such a difference when you make yourself available. And I like that, leave the door open. Feedback with the offer of following up to actually take steps and measures to let that person know that you're available for them. I always found that super powerful in the people who gave me feedback and actually were there for me.
Andrew: I think you're also giving a message. This is like the mindset. Because an unspoken thing that I'm saying is, "Susan, my door is open for you to come and give me feedback as well if you want to. If you want to tell me what I can do better or what you'd like to see me do different, the door is open for me to do that." You're also creating that, but it goes back to the mindset. You've got that mindset of, "I believe in feedback. I believe it's useful for people."
Peter: Now, that is an amazing scenario when everything falls into place. But what happens when someone just gets angry or just plain disagrees? For example, you're in a meeting, someone's texting, not listening. Everyone is clearly distracted by the behavior. Afterwards, you pull them aside and you use the model. First, the situation: during the meeting. Second, the behavior: I noticed you were texting on your phone. Third, the impact: I don't know what's going on, but I noticed you were texting. I noticed people were looking and distracted from the agenda. It had an impact on me, and I think it had an impact on the team. And the person blows up. "Well, Andrew, I don't see it that way. Thank you for your feedback. I totally disagree." How do you handle that type of personality, that type of reaction?
Andrew: I think the first thing, and sometimes people are surprised by this, but recognize it and say, "Hey, I can see this is something that you really care about," and then say, "And I accept if that's how you feel that's true for you." Because it's okay. That's true for them. And then because what you're trying to do is help them to understand the impact that they're having on you. So, what I'm feeling and the impact on me is true for me, and if they're feeling that what I'm saying might be different to their view, that's fine. And the reason is because they're talking. They're an expert on their intention and what they're trying to create. We're all experts on our intention. So, people aren't going in there to annoy us and make meetings bad, but we have to remember, everybody else is the expert on our impact. So, if somebody gets annoyed, I just go, "That's fine." Recognize it, and accept it, and then just remind them about intention and impact.
Peter: That's so interesting. It's such a radically different reaction than what our human emotions tell us to do, right? So, for this type of situation, you accept and recognize, which is such interesting advice. So, is there anything else we can do to help them see how it impacted us?
Andrew: Yeah. One of the ways you can do it is by saying to them -- first of all, tell them your intention, tell them that you're giving them feedback to help. It might not feel like it at this moment in time, but that's why you're doing it. And then maybe ask them questions like, "Can you see why I would say what I said? What would you feel like if you were in my shoes?" that sort of thing. But especially, the, "Can you see why I might say what I've said?" It's just a gentle way to start getting them to move from where they are into somebody else's world and see what might be happening. Because they're not doing it for bad reasons, they're not intending to ruin my day, yeah? So, helping them is of benefit to all of us.
Peter: Yes. Sometimes when you get tough feedback, especially about our work and what we're doing, people naturally -- or I don't want to say "naturally," but people tend to defend themselves. Sometimes it's an automatic reaction to getting tough feedback. And even if it's presented nicely, people might just be defensive. So, after you explained the situation and see if they can see it from our perspective, what's next?
Andrew: Well, I think just realizing that people go through the process sometimes of -- it's almost like this, Peter. You go, "How dare somebody say that to me?" Yeah?
Peter: Yes.
Andrew: And then you maybe get angry, "What right do they have to say that to me?" But over time, we've all been through the process that we then go, "Well, maybe I can understand why they might be saying that." And then after another week, we go, "Actually, I do sometimes do that." And then maybe four weeks later, we go, "Yeah. Maybe that wasn't the best behavior." So, just realizing that everybody go through that type of process. Sometimes you go through it really fast, sometimes it takes longer. It can just help you if you get that sort of reaction, you know, because we all do it. You're smiling when I tell you about that process because we've all done it. Sometimes we can do it in five minutes, sometimes it takes us five weeks. But just realize that you're helping somebody do that.
Peter: All right, Andrew. We've covered the SBI structure. We went through examples illustrating how to use it. We've worked on tone, timeliness, and even covered difficult situations. So, for the listeners, how would you recommend getting better at giving feedback?
Andrew: I think we've given people a structure in a way of doing this. The next thing is to start to practice. And my example is like, when you learn to swim, you can stand at the side of the swimming pool for hours with people showing you what to do with your arms, how to breathe, how to kick your legs, but at some point, you have to get in the water. And this is the point where we say, "Get in the water and practice." But make it easy for yourself. Don't go and find the toughest feedback that you've got to give anybody and maybe go and practice with that one first. Look for some opportunities to recognize some good things that people are doing. Look for some opportunities to recognize some small things that people could improve, and use the structure. Think about your mindset. Yeah? But practice.
The other thing to do is after you've practiced, maybe reflect and go, "How did that go?" "If I did it again, how would I do it better?" Also, you could ask people for feedback. You could say to people, "Hey, I hope this conversation was useful for you. If we were going to have this conversation again, what would you want me to do different? What are two things that I did really well?" So, you're learning yourself as you practice.
Peter: Excellent advice, Andrew. Would it also be okay for people to ask someone who's given a lot of feedback that they may know to help them role-play?
Andrew: Yeah, that's a great idea. I mean, looking for people you know, whether they're people in work or outside of work, who are really good in relationships, giving feedback and asking them to help you, I think is a great idea. So, practicing with somebody. Sometimes I've practiced on my own. I'll get up in the morning, stand in front of the mirror and think, "Right. How am I going to do this?" But practice is a great idea, and role-playing is a great idea. You can learn a lot by actually trying it out with somebody else first. And it's never really a role play. It's always real. When you give somebody feedback, the emotions always come up even if you're only playing a part.
Peter: I think if you really look at your network, really look at your network, and maybe look at it like you never have before, you can find people who are very experienced at giving feedback. And in my experience, they're often very happy to share all the information they've accumulated. Andrew, if someone approached you and said, "Andrew, I want to get better at giving feedback. Do you have some time for me?"
Andrew: Yeah, of course, of course. In fact, I do it all the time. And the key thing that I always say to people is it's about the other person and thinking about them, and thinking, "How do I make it easy for them? How do I make it easy for them to either receive the feedback that I'm going to give them, or for them to give me the feedback that I really want?"
Peter: One more interesting aspect is that this conversation has been very focused on professional or work-related feedback. But, Andrew, the structure you went over and many of the things that we talked about seem very applicable to personal life.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think because we use the word "feedback" and it's associated with work. So, we know each other. I'd never say to you, "Pete, I'm going to give you some feedback about that shirt." I'd just say, "Hey, you look good in that shirt today." You know? But I think it's important for us to remember that this is about relationships. You talked about this earlier, about one of the things we worry about is relationships and the effect it will have. So, all the things we've talked about today are all about people helping each other to become better. It's not a work thing. You can use it as broadly as you wanted to. And the structure is really simple and it works all the time, which is one of the reasons that I used the example of children, because you could even use it with your children if you're patient.
Peter: And for the record, this is a very nice shirt.
Andrew: That's what I was saying.
Peter: Okay. Listeners, now you know, 1, what feedback is exactly; 2, why giving it is difficult and how to overcome that; and 3, how to give proper feedback with the SBI structure. Listeners, thank you for tuning in. Be sure to download and listen to this lesson a few more times and be sure to practice so that you can give proper feedback in real-life situations. Thank you again, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you, Peter.