When we think of leaders, we often think of individuals in a high level position, with a title that warrants them to be a leader. It's their role because that's what they do in their work, it's what they get paid to do, it's their job. Yet leadership is much more than status and a role we show up for as part of the daily grind. Leadership involves influencing, communicating, having a vision and understanding emotions and people, and can occur without having the position of authority that can appear alongside it. With a few potential tweaks to a mindset, and a vision for the greater good, we all have the potential to show up in the world with a personal leadership style that role models personal responsibility.
Communication is a key part of leadership and is important in any job, and all parts of our daily life. Within the realm of communication is feedback, which is a two way opportunity to share information and to check the key message has been received and understood. Feedback also helps us to improve our understanding, our actions and the situation that we have experienced. Yet, how often do we actually take the time to give feedback? When we do, is it well received? Was it asked for, or was it something we decided to openly share in a way that may not have been expected or appreciated?
Giving feedback is a skill that can be learnt. It involves reading and understanding body language, being aware of the things that we are noticing and want to comment on, and being aware of how we deliver the message and how it will be received. Check out the tips below, as a reminder of the necessities involved with successful communication, which we can often take for granted.
1) Who are we targeting our communication at, and are they the right audience?
We can find ourselves in situations where we tell our friends, our family, our colleagues, or even our neighbour of a situation, before we share it with the person who would benefit the most from calmly discussing it over with. If we open up the dialogue, we give people the opportunity to share information that we may not have first been aware of, which helps us see it from another perspective; which can also help us understand the situation better.
2) How are we delivering our communication and is it the right method?
We live in a technology driven world but this isn't always the best method to use, when delivering key information. Email and text messages can find us two-ing and fro-ing forward and back, for long periods of time. With no visual cue to body language, tone, or context, our messages can get lost or misunderstood. It can be useful to evaluate whether our message will be better delivered face-to-face, where we can make a connection, read body language and interpret visual cues to help us navigate the conversation and avoid misunderstandings and deliver information in a sensitive way.
3) Why are we providing this feedback? Have they asked for it? Will it be beneficial for them to hear? What place are we coming from when we are giving it?
Raise your hands if you have received out-of-the-blue feedback that wasn't asked for, that sounded mean and was uncalled for? Chances are this was an emotional reaction rather than a thought-out response to a situation that needed to be addressed, discussed or shared.
When we provide feedback, we want the other person to feel empowered, as we are ultimately sharing our knowledge in a way that helps people develop, grow, and learn in some way. Before giving feedback, we should consider whether they asked for it, whether they are ready to hear it, and whether it is beneficial. Work places provide different feedback opportunities than situations with friends and family, but the same applies. Feedback should add value, come from a place of kindness, respect and care, and should be constructive.
4) What is our key message? Do we provide positive feedback or do we just focus on the negatives?
When we deliver negative feedback, it can sound like criticism which can lead us to receive a defensive reaction. When communicating negative feedback, it can be helpful to focus on the solution rather than the problem. It can also be important to recognise the person's strengths or the positives in the situation, so that we aren't just honing in on the negative. By providing praise and being appreciative, we may even find ourselves without the need to provide negative feedback to begin with!
5) What is our body language saying?
Some of the most powerful messages are sent non-verbally. Ever seen highly raised eyebrows, stone cold eyes, or folded arms being directed your way? How did it make you feel? Chances are it put you on edge a little, or you may have felt a vibe that wasn't nice. Swap that with warmth, understanding and a generous spirit - how's that image coming up for you?
When we deliver feedback, it is helpful for it to come from a place of rationality and calm, where empathy, understanding and care is present. No one is perfect and mistakes are a normal part of life, it's how we learn and grow as a person that counts.
6) Is this the right time to be delivering the feedback? Has the issue just occurred, is the receiver in the right headspace to receive it, or has too much time passed?
This of course depends on the situation and is something to be mindful of, so that we can try to read the situation. Providing feedback shortly after something has occurred is beneficial as it's still fresh and relevant, but if the situation is emotionally sparked then space may be needed for individuals to be calm and to have time to reflect before they respond.
We don't have control over other people's behaviour or reactions, but we can all be mindful of how we are showing up in the world, how we are delivering our messages, how people are reacting to us, and whether a few tweaks to our personal leadership style can be made.
What's your personal leadership communication style? Are you communicating like a leader?