Feedback - how to use it
Delivered well, feedback can lead to an improved understanding of one another's needs and perspectives, as well as improving performance and learning. On the other hand, people will often reject feedback when given poorly - it can be viewed as destructive and can damage relationships.
The information below looks at how to give feedback effectively in everyday situations. Adapt this to enhance the way you use feedback in your driver training.
Giving Feedback Effectively Make It a Positive Process and Experience
Before giving feedback make sure you remind yourself why you are doing it. The purpose for giving feedback is to improve the situation or performance. You won't accomplish that by being harsh, critical, or offensive.
That's not to say you must always be positive. There is a role for negativity if someone isn't paying sufficient attention to what you're saying. However this should be used sparingly.
The closer to the event you address the issue, the better. Feedback isn't about surprising someone so the sooner you do it, the more the person will be expecting it.
Think of it this way: It's much easier to feed back about a 10 minute training session that hasn't been done well than it is to feed back about a whole lesson of mistakes.
The exception to this is if the situation involved is highly emotional. Wait until someone has calmed down before you engage in feedback. You can't risk letting yourself get worked up and saying something you will regret later.
Make It Regular
Feedback is a process that requires constant attention. When something needs to be said, say it. People then know where they stand all the time and there are few surprises. Also, problems don't get out of hand.
With frequent informal feedback like this, nothing said during formal feedback sessions should be unexpected, surprising or particularly difficult.
Prepare Your Comments
You don't want to read a script but you do need to be clear about what you are going to say. This helps you stay on track and stick to the issues.
Tell the person exactly what they need to improve on. This ensures that you stick to facts and there is less room for ambiguity. If you tell someone they acted incorrectly what does that mean exactly? Were they unaware, not focused, confused or thought they were correct at the time? You must find out and a good feedback session unearths any misunderstandings.
Try not to exaggerate to make a point. Avoid words like "never", "all," and "always" because the person will get defensive. Discuss the direct impact of the behavior and don't get personal or seek to blame.
Criticise in Private
If you need to criticise in front of parents or observers you have to be extremely careful as people will feel like it is a direct attack on them. Be aware that criticism will often hurt people's feelings, this is disastrous for rapport and will break the trust you may have worked so hard to build up.
Use "I" Statements
Give the feedback from your perspective. This way you avoid labelling the person. Especially if you work with more than one person in the vehicle. Try not to accuse by saying 'you'. For example 'I would have behaved differently in that last situation' rather than 'you should have behaved differently'
Limit Your Focus
A feedback session should discuss at best no more than two issues. Any more than that and you risk the person feeling attacked and demoralized.
You should also stick to behaviours the person can actually change or influence. Too much negativity is soul destroying.
Talk About Positives Too
A good rule is start off with something positive. This helps put the person at ease. It also lets them see what success looks like and this helps them to take the right steps next time.
As long as it's not forced, it can also help to give positive feedback at the end of a feedback session too. Otherwise, people can finish feeling despondent and worthless.
Many people can tend to overdo this and they end up sandwiching the constructive feedback between too many positives. Then the takeaway message becomes, "Wow, I'm doing really well" instead of "I have areas of development'
Provide Specific Suggestions
Make sure you both know what needs to be done to improve the situation. The main message should be that you care and want to help the person grow and develop. Set goals and make plans to monitor and evaluate progress. Use the SMART acronym and define specific steps and milestones, or the GROW model to motivate people to deliver the change you want.
Want to know more about SMART and GROW? SMART goals and GROW coaching conversations are covered in the BTEC Level 4 in Coaching for Driver Development.
You may not agree on everything so it is a good idea to ask the person to provide their perspective first. Use phrases like, "What is your reaction to this?" or "Is this a fair representation of what happened?" Listen actively to what he or she has to say and try to get him or her to offer some suggestions for improvement. This way they have an opportunity to own the solution and are much more likely to follow through with it. To avoid sounding like you're preaching, stay away from words like "good," "bad," "must," "need to," etc.
The whole purpose of feedback is to improve performance. You need to measure whether or not that is happening and then make adjustments as you go. Be sure to make notes and discuss what is working and what needs to be modified.
It's also important that you encourage your clients to actively seek feedback from you.
Key Points Feedback is a two-way street. You need to know how to give it effectively and at the same time model how to receive it constructively.
When you make a conscious choice to give and receive feedback on a regular basis you demonstrate that feedback is a powerful means of personal development. Done properly, feedback need not be agonizing, demoralizing, or daunting and the more practice you get the better you will become at it. Use it to create a reflective practice with your clients and it will often become a natural process through out the lessons.
During the BTEC 4 course Module 2 extensively covers feedback and Module 3 helps you develop the GROW model as a coaching conversational tool. Please contact us if you would like to know more.