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Real-Time Feedback Can Be More Productive Than a Formal Feedback Process


June 5, 2024

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3 minutes


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The mere mention of “feedback” can make many people’s palms sweat. Whether giving or receiving feedback, it often has a reputation as negative and momentous. But it doesn’t need to be. Certainly, feedback can include constructive criticism, but it can also include gratitude and acknowledgments of positive actions. Similarly, feedback can happen during formal annual reviews and promotion discussions, but it isn’t limited to those situations. In fact, real-time feedback can be among the most effective.

At LP, we have been shifting our approach to feedback to encourage attorneys and professionals to give and receive feedback regularly and productively. For instance, in 2022, we transformed our process to include “F2=Feedback + Future” conversations. F2 Conversations are intentional discussions between group leads and their team members to share feedback and discuss plans and goals. The purpose of F2 conversations is to focus on what’s next, what skills can be developed, and what can be learned. Regardless of a person’s role or level of experience, there is always something to learn or skills to develop. Our F2 conversations focus on this forward progress, rather than getting stuck on what has been done in the past.

Additionally, we are training our attorneys and professionals on the value of real-time feedback. Research shows that real-time feedback is four times more likely to facilitate workplace engagement.

So how do we make time – and find the emotional bandwidth – to have frequent, real-time, one-on-one feedback conversations, especially when doing so can involve difficult conversations? The following five tips can help:

Focus on the most important thing.

Real-time feedback isn’t a planning session or a time to discuss annual goals. Rather, the conversation should be specific and focused. Limit the feedback to one or two important points.

When giving feedback, focus less on what you said and more on what they heard and how it made them feel.

As a feedback-giver, it is helpful to understand that what you said is less impactful than what the receiver heard and how it made them feel. It can be helpful to ask the receiver to tell you what they heard so you can correct any misunderstandings in real-time. Additionally, remember that the receiver will focus more on how your feedback made them feel than your specific words. Tone of voice matters, and a foundation of trust can buoy difficult conversations.

Repeat your primary points twice.

Sometimes, feedback conversations can get sidetracked. To stay focused on the key feedback, repeat the primary feedback points twice. Check for alignment and clarity on what was said and heard.

When receiving feedback, focus less on what they said and more on how you react.

Your reaction to feedback is just as important – if not more important – than the behavior or habits that spurred the feedback. While defensiveness may be an instinctual and normal response, by keeping your emotions in check, you can maintain control over how you react to the feedback.

Embrace curiosity.

Whether you are giving or receiving feedback, stay curious. Ask questions. By creating a foundation built on an openness to possibility and being willing to listen, you establish trust and keep the lines of communication open. If you don’t think the feedback is accurate, get curious about why someone might think this way. Because feedback conversations can often trigger feelings and doubts about how you view yourself, a flurry of emotions can bubble up. For instance, feedback about being late for a meeting may cast doubt on a person’s self-assessment as a prompt and considerate person, even if there was an understandable reason for the tardiness. 

Rather than succumbing to instinctual and emotional responses, embracing radical curiosity can help you navigate the difficult (and perhaps confusing) emotions that often arise during real-time feedback conversations. Doing so will not only prevent emotions from creating new problems, but it will keep you focused on the essence of the feedback so meaningful and productive progress can be made.

Filed under: Talent

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