What do you do when a feedback or counseling session with an employee is finished? Often those involved in the meeting sort of wander off in different directions. If the managers involved do stay back and huddle up, the conversation generally takes the form of rehashing what was said and speculations on the question of “do you think they got it?” But rarely do the managers involved ask each other for personal feedback on how they did in the conversation.
One of the best ways I know of to improve your communication skills and your ability to effectively deliver feedback is to have a quick debriefing session after every counseling session where there is another manager present for the meeting. Although it can be intimidating at first, asking other managers for their opinion on what went well in the conversation and what you could have done differently will very quickly hone your skills in this area.
In order for you to get the most out of these debriefing sessions, it takes all parties, regardless of their position, committing to creating an environment that is open, honest and respectful so that everyone is comfortable being totally honest. This is especially true when your leader is part of the group and you have constructive feedback to give them. It only works effectively if people resist becoming defensive and are open to the feedback as a learning experience.
If your management team is not already debriefing after counseling sessions, today is an excellent time to start. After your next session, ask the managers to stay behind and explain that as a learning exercise, you would like to quickly debrief the conversation you’ve just had. Start by asking everyone what they thought went well in conversation. As a group, offer positive feedback (with specifics) to each other for those elements of the conversation that you thought were handled especially well.
Then ask the group if there was anything that they thought could have gone better. Usually I start with general comments like, “We didn’t forward the phone” or “it felt at one point like we might have been overwhelming him”. Allow the group to ease into the constructive feedback. Sometimes people will feel comfortable enough to go right to a personal critique, “I could have ended the conversation better”, “I let myself get angry” or “I rambled for too long before I delivered the important point.” It is important to get to this really specific and honest level of feedback in order to gain the most insight and learning.
If people are a little hesitant to get to give feedback to the other managers in the room, prompt them by asking for feedback yourself. “I would appreciate it if you would share any feedback you have for me on what I said or did during the conversation that would help me improve and better prepare for future conversations.” Once the door is opened, others will often do the same and ask for feedback as well.
Don’t worry if this feels a little bit like gears grinding at first. Depending on your management culture, this process could fit easily in to your routine or it could be a real shift and people will need some time to trust the process. It’s ok if the first couple only result in general comments. As long as the group’s focus is on becoming better leaders rather than finger pointing and blaming, it will quickly become one of the best personal growth tools you and your management team have in your toolbox.
As always, your comments are appreciated and please share this post if you found it helpful to you.