Getting past the gamification of feedback

Giving and receiving feedback can be a gift … if we allow that experience to be that.

With steady rates of job changes, and seemingly surprising resignations in many offices, some are tempted to turn feedback into a game by only focusing on the positives of a team member, overlooking errors, miscommunications and missteps, and others are simply accepting the work someone, anyone, is providing, in order to not lose in the talent challenge.

Neither of these approaches is productive, or smart, for the individuals involved, the culture and/or the business or organization. And gamifying feedback in hopes things will get better is like playing Monopoly, rolling the dice with hope you do well, yet landing in jail with no “get out of jail free” card, no cash and no properties collecting rent. In feedback, and in life, hope is not a strategy.

Still, “I am afraid to give constructive criticism,” “I don’t even want to point out a typo for fear of that person crying,” and “I am so nervous to have my junior employees in meetings that I am burned out going to everything,” are comments that are regularly shared with me by clients, colleagues and friends.

If you are thinking “I am right there,” or you know you have thought, and felt, this way, this feeling feedback approach is for you.

First, view praise and critiques as feedback for yourself. Get rid of the idea of constructive criticism for now, as the constructive aspect can get lost in your words, tone and, especially, in the receiver’s ear.

It is imperative there are conditions in which the receiver can take in feedback, reflect on it and learn from it. This must be safe, consistent and timely. This cannot be reactionary, and rash, rather it is to be delivered with empathy and, yes, expectations…all based on the receiver’s capacity and reach.

In other words, resist seeing yourself as that person at their age, or when/if you were in that position, and meet the person as they are now, where they are now and with the talent they have. Be realistic, and sincere, when you implement the following:

Plan a time, and place, for feedback and call it a feedback session, not simply a one-on-one or buried in a “Hey, how is it going” drop by their workspace.

State the goal of the meeting/discussion in terms of the topic of feedback (project, sales call, meeting) in terms of moving forward.

Be prepared, and on time, with that as your sole focus (no distractions or hurriedness) so they know they are the priority.

Check-in with the person as a human being first to really connect and learn if something else is more important than what you were planning to address (it happens, we are more than our work and/or work product).

Ask how the person felt, or thought, about the project, sales call or meeting, in terms of what went well, and any areas for improvement they saw. This allows for knowing where the person is coming from and if they have already realized what happened.

After listening to learn and not just get to when you get to speak, share what did go well. This is not to butter them up, rather to show fairness and that you want them to see their strengths. From there, share areas with improvement with tips and tools, and not “You need to stop [blank]” or “You can’t keep [blank].” Be supportive and firm while sharing the reason for them and not only for the business.

Get agreement on next steps, if you have any roadblocks to assist with moving and when you’ll meet for feedback followup again. Share your enthusiasm for moving forward. If the person asks if this is a job threat or what will happen if things don’t change, do share truthfully for a productive discussion so you both know where you stand.

When you are direct, there is no game and when you take away the gamification, you are not players who can win or lose. You are two people who want the best and can get there through feedback, openness and effort.

Debbie Lundberg is the founder and CEO of the Florida-based firm Presenting Powerfully. As an 11-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant, she is a performance coach who co-hosts the Business of Life Master Class podcast. Her latest book, Remote Work Rockstar, has become a guidebook for working and leading virtually.

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