Coaching Through Feedback
To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need to understand their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals. Direct feedback is the most helpful way for them to gather information and learn from it. But giving constructive feedback can be challenging. For this reason, our Ask Fuel First question highlights a resource that can help give feedback: what steps can I take to provide positive and constructive feedback to my employees?
Providing immediate and effective feedback with regard to behavior can be a sensitive and challenging process. The feedback planner can help you sell the need for change to improve a situation. It will assist you in helping others understand the consequences of their current behavior and address areas of needed improvement. It can also help employees recognize that they are accountable for their behaviors and subsequent impacts (good and bad), and they can choose their behavior or situation to achieve the desired results.
There are four steps for using the feedback planner.
- Step 1Describe Current Behavior: Start by focusing on behavior. Judgment is your opinion, so avoid being judgmental in your feedback of others. Behavior is observable, so it is the foundation to feedback.
- Loaded and inflammatory language tends to arouse feelings of anger and strong emotions. Words like “poor team player” and “bad attitude” will usually end up with the recipient feeling defeated. Judgment can also lead to defensive behavior.
- How might “poor team player,” “uncooperative” or “bad attitude” be perceived by others? Think about what they’re doing that has caused you to think about these terms. An employee sounded dismissive while answering the phone, so you think they’re being uncooperative in following your instructions. In this example, the behavior is not following protocol while answering the phone. Be sure you’re fairly evaluating each employee based on behavior instead of personal biases you might have.
- Notice we don’t dive right in. Avoid saying something like, “You’re rude when you answer the phone.” This is your opinion.
- Be descriptive and brief. “We have a protocol for answering the phones. I’d appreciate it if you could use that the next time you answer the phone.”
- Step 2 Identify the Situation: Focus on describing specific behavior using specific situations and examples. Equalize the playing field by acknowledging the other person’s position and inviting further explanation.
- Why is it necessary to describe specific behavior? Being vague isn’t helpful, and others may not understand the problem. Providing specifics makes sure everyone is on the same page.
- What if you did not directly observe the behavior? It’s possible that another employee came to you with an observation of their colleague. You can address this but asking a question like “how would you like me to get involved?”
- Step 3 Describe Impact and Consequences: Remember to be objective and supportive when describing the impact and consequences.
- What are typical situations the behavior might impact? For example, if a front office staff member doesn’t sound friendly when they answer the phone, patients could get the impression that they are being rude. The consequences of this could be lower patient ratings and/or loss of patients. Before you give feedback, think about how the behavior described in step 2 impacts the practice, the team, the patient or other employees.
- Be supportive. Understand the situation before you give feedback. If an employee answering the phone is rushed because there is usually a line of patients waiting to check in or other callers are waiting on hold, they may sidestep the protocol and are “short” with patients because they feel overwhelmed. It’s important to acknowledge the situation yet still address the behavior.
- Step 4 Identify Alternative Behaviors: You MUST provide something to replace the old behavior.
- Mandates or imposed solutions are often ineffective. They are one-sided and usually lay blame.
- What are some alternative behaviors? Get the receiver involved at this point. What do they think are alternative behaviors?
- State the replacement behavior clearly. If you want someone to behave differently, you’ll need to describe the new behavior clearly to avoid misunderstanding. Also, describe why this behavior is better by detailing the positive consequences.
- What if they just shut down? Responses to feedback, like “well, I just won’t get involved anymore” or “I’ll just keep quiet?” means the recipient isn’t on board with the change. Try to let them know that the alternative behavior has better consequences than “being quiet” or being uninvolved.
Putting it All Together
After you consider each step in the feedback planner, you’ll need to put it all together. Here’s an example of feedback that identifies alternative behavior
I heard you answer the phone with “Audiology” yesterday. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into training front office staff on best practices for answering the phone. When we don’t follow the protocol, it can cause confusion for our patients, who may feel that we’re not displaying professionalism, and could cause our ratings to go down. A more appropriate way to answer the phone is “Thank you for calling Bend Audiology.* How may I help you?” In this case, the patient will know that they’ve called the right office and that we’re ready to help them. Do you have another suggestion on how we could answer the phone with similar detail and enthusiasm?
*Bend Audiology is a fictional practice.
In this scenario, the person giving feedback was specific in describing the behavior and consequences of the behavior and offered an alternative behavior. They also asked the recipient if they had another suggestion for answering the practice’s phone. In addition to the words, the person giving the feedback had a positive tone and wholeheartedly wanted to know if the recipient had any suggestions. This helps create a positive environment where the recipient won’t feel defensive or defeated. If you need more examples of how to use the feedback planner, contact the Fuel Medical Professional Development team.