“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all” – Thumper, Disney’s Bambi

I can’t be certain when I first heard this adage, but I can say for sure, I was young, and I heard it often throughout my life. The above quote was stated after Thumper innocently said he thought “Bambi” was a funny name. Thumper was not being mean and was simply acting like a curious “child,” however, he was scolded for making the statement just the same. Could a message like this be why we have such difficulty giving feedback? Are we so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings that we refrain from offering constructive feedback which, in turn, could result in horrible dysfunction within our teams and create simmering resentment often impossible to overcome? Let me be clear, I believe the intent of this message is positive–we should all remember to say nice things about each other. But do we do this at the detriment of our professional growth?

In the October 2017 BWF blog, I offered tips with the intention of opening the reader’s mind to receive and learn from feedback given, but that was only half of the equation. As important as it is to receive constructive feedback, so is the ability to give it effectively. This is true whether you’re a manager/supervisor, employee or a colleague. Feedback can, and should, be given up, down and laterally. Today, I’ll focus primarily on giving constructive feedback to your teammates—those folks you have to work with day in and day out. Done poorly, you might create an extremely uncomfortable situation, in addition to—dare I say—hurting their feelings. Failing to say anything, however, could possibly be worse than hurt feelings. In the book, “Radical Candor,” Kim Scott shares a situation where she failed to be honest with a very likeable employee whose work was subpar. In the end, when she had to let this employee go, he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I thought you all cared about me!”

The following are ways to provide feedback to co-workers, while maintaining the camaraderie essential to a high-functioning team:

  • Give real-time feedback. Feedback should be within 24 – 48 hours. No one remembers a specific meeting from months ago, but they will remember a conversation from yesterday. There are, of course, instances where a little more time is needed to fully process your thoughts. The 24 – 48 hour rule should be a guideline.
  • Ask if you can provide some feedback and reduce the mystery by being specific regarding the topic. For example, you could say, “Can I share some thoughts about the sales presentation you’re working on?” You could even ask the recipient to decide when the best time to speak might be.
  • Be kind and never be mean spirited. Don’t attack the person, rather, talk about the action and how it made you feel. See item 4 below for more particulars.
  • Be specific and provide examples. I am very fortunate to work for a company that helps me with my leadership journey through constant training. One of our courses focused on providing feedback using the Situation, Behavior and Impact (SBI) model. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful to reduce my anxiety and, possibly, defensiveness of the recipient. Simply put, you (1) Describe the Situation and be specific and factual. (2) Describe the observable Behavior, but don’t assume you know what the other person was thinking, and (3) Describe what you personally thought or felt in reaction to the Behavior. Below is a simple example of this exchange:
    1. Situation. “Yesterday morning, when a hotel guest approached you in the lobby asking for directions to their meeting…”
    2. Behavior. “…you immediately stopped what you were doing and escorted the guest to their meeting location…”
    3. Impact. “…and I was impressed with the attention you provided to that guest when you could have simply provided verbal directions.”

Giving feedback is a skill, and like all skills, it takes practice to get it right. Come join us for the September 18 Women’s Business Forum Luncheon where we’ll discuss these tips and put the SBI model into practice with our tables.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

About Sherry Weaver

Sherry grew up in Buffalo, NY and attended Genesee Community College pursuing a degree in Travel & Tourism. On a familiarization trip in December 1989 she discovered the beauty of Utah and moved to Park City the following April to work for a local travel agency. In September of 1992, she began working for Worldspan/Travelport, a global travel distribution company, and had a wonderful 17 year career managing a portfolio consisting of Travel Management Companies. In December 2009, she found her true passion, selling the mountain experience. At that time, she started with Canyons Resort working with the leisure market. In September 2011, she moved into her current position as a Conference Sales Manager helping groups create a meeting or conference that will leave their attendees with memories to last a lifetime. In her spare time, she enjoys alpine skiing, hiking, road & mountain biking, running and travel with her husband, Tom, and 2 children, Sydney and TJ.