Offering feedback to those who are steadfastly opposed to receiving it is a challenge every leader faces at some point. We all have team members or colleagues who don’t want to hear the feedback offered by you or anyone else for that matter. Defensiveness and hypersensitivity can prevent even top performers from listening to important feedback.
By rejecting feedback, these colleagues miss real opportunities to make necessary changes and improve performance. In these circumstances, many skillful leaders turn to cause-and-effect feedback to overcome this resistance. Cause-and-effect feedback remains objective and neutral, thereby reducing resistance. Leaders who use it simply state the obvious cause and effect they observe. When you do X, then Y happens. After that observation, leaders let the idea sit with the performer for as long as it takes for them to ask questions or to make a change.
Consider some examples of Cause-and-effect feedback:
“When you advocate too passionately at meetings, everyone else gets quiet.”
“I’ve noticed that every time you make small talk, the other party quickly exits the conversation.”
“In those instances where you don’t vary your tone and speech rate, listeners stop processing what you are saying.”
“When you position your feet in this way, you remain off-balance.”
Reserve judgment and simply point out what you’ve observed. That’s when noting cause and effect can be a powerful feedback tool — especially for those who get defensive or are sensitive to criticism. The next time a team member gives you the feedback straight-arm, offer them an observation of cause and effect. When you give feedback in a cause-and-effect statement, people internalize it. We just did it.