Secrets to Giving Feedback: Insights for Introverts

Giving feedback is central to growing as a professional. Yet many of us are uncomfortable and unskilled at conducting a feedback conversation. In this two-part interview with Casey Carpenter, CEO of Speak & Own It Communications, a NYC area-based consultancy, we discuss productive ways for introverts to give and get feedback. In this first part, we focus on giving feedback, especially if you’re an introvert who is a boss or other leader.

Carpenter’s background includes 30 years in the corporate world, where, as a sales leader at Cigna and Sunrise Senior Living, she honed her feedback skills. She observed sales rep behavior in the field and coached team members to drive results. Carpenter is the author of Introverts in Sales: Turn Your Peaceful Power Into a Profitable Selling Machine.

NA: How does giving feedback adeptly help with career advancement?

CC: In today’s work-from-home setting, where many of us are still dispersed, it’s important for a leader to be a coach. Once promoted, an effective leader realizes that the focus shifts from their individual performance to supporting others to reach team goals. Giving effective feedback is a keystone of coaching. Leaders who are proficient at giving feedback find that despite the challenges of communicating virtually, their teams show up ready to do great things on behalf of their organization. The team does well and everyone gains visibility.

NA: What’s the hardest part of giving feedback for introverted leaders?

CC: They are often not direct enough, which can be remedied by balancing observation with critique (“what I saw, what I heard, what I observed”). It’s also important to infuse empathy into the conversation and to remember that the feedback recipient may have a point of view of which you are not aware. Introverted leaders also may find it awkward to initiate a feedback conversation. A phrase such as, “I need to understand what happened. How do you recall the events?” is a good conversation starter.

NA: What works best for introverts who give feedback to their team members?

CC: I can tell you which technique doesn’t work well! No more sandwiches! I’m referring to the “sandwich technique” that was popular years ago. In that approach, constructive feedback was sandwiched between two compliments. The person receiving the feedback would hear an initial compliment and then waited for the shoe to drop.

NA: So many leaders have diametrically opposed opinions about sandwich feedback! On another note, how do you recommend conducting a feedback conversation?

CC: Since we are communicating primarily on video, schedule an online meeting. Prepare your talking points, including the impact the team member’s actions had on you and your organization, if applicable. Use a direct, honest, and caring approach. In a corrective situation, give the feedback from the perspective of something you saw, heard, or witnessed. I have been known to say, “I couldn’t help but notice that on yesterday’s call, you…. Did I hear that right? Help me understand the factors that led you to say that….” Then, if necessary: “I need to give you some feedback about that.” Be sure to look directly into the camera lens rather than at the grid view on your screen, since that is the best way to simulate excellent eye contact.

NA: How can introverts best give feedback to colleagues when they don’t have a reporting relationship?

CC: I would first ask if it’s OK to give them feedback. Assuming the colleague says yes, I would share what I observed the colleague say or do, and the impact it had on me and/or the business. Your feedback may surprise them as they may not have realized the unintended consequences of their actions. Be willing to help the colleague brainstorm ways to remedy the situation. Empathy goes a long way in peer-to-peer feedback. Whenever I’ve needed to give it, I’ve stated that even though this may have been a difficult conversation to initiate, I’m doing it because I care about them.

NA: What about when introverts want to give feedback to their boss?

CC: It’s especially important for anyone, especially introverts, to have a relationship with the boss that fosters giving and receiving feedback. When that foundation is solid, an introverted employee can take comfort in saying, “Remember when you said you’d like to hear from me about how I think things are going?” Without a solid relationship, an introvert may feel they are imposing, or worse, creating stories about how the boss may feel they don’t have their best interest at heart by providing feedback. An introvert can often open the door at the beginning of a high-stakes project by stating, “Since I’m close to the ground on this, would it be helpful if I shared my perspective from time to time?” They don’t have to use the word “feedback,” which can be triggering in and of itself!

NA: Any other insights about giving feedback that most people probably don’t think of?

CC: Done well, giving feedback not only is a conversation, but the recipient leaves the conversation motivated to excel!

NA: Yes, that’s definitely the desired outcome. What do you if you have lots of negative feedback you want to convey?

CC: Giving feedback is not an opportunity to go through a litany of what the person needs to correct. That’s not motivating. Instead, give your reflections from your perspective, in bite-size pieces. This enables them to feel as if they can take it on and be successful.

NA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CC: Giving feedback is critical now because video is our main connective medium. When you see something, say something. Don’t save it up for a quarterly or annual performance review. Just as feedback needs to be served in bite-size portions, it’s also important to not let it grow stale.

NA: Thank you for your clear guidance to help introverts become more adept at delivering feedback. I look forward to our follow-up conversation on your top tips for introverts on the receiving end of feedback.

Copyright © 2021 Nancy Ancowitz

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