Q: As a leader, I know timely feedback is expected and needed, but sometimes things my team does really irritate me. How do I provide that feedback in a moment when I am angry or irritated?
A: Congratulations on recognizing that giving feedback when you are angry is not effective. That is a great first step – to be aware when you are too irritated to give feedback. My suggestion is that you don’t try to give feedback until you can follow Brene Brown’s advice for giving feedback. She suggests in Dare to Lead that in order to be good in giving feedback you do the following:
Be ready to sit next to rather than across from the person you are providing with feedback. This isn’t just logistical, but a mindset that you are working together to improve.
Be willing to put the issue in front of you both rather than between you. This can lead to changes in your language so you are talking about an outcome or behavior that has to change, rather than a person who is wrong or needs to be different. Here you are addressing the issue with the result you were trying to get and working to figure out how to address it together.
Be Open – be ready to listen, ask questions and allow for the possibility that you could be mistaken about the cause of the situation that is inciting your anger and possibly understand the situation in a different way will not make you as angry.
Listen – Once you feel ready to be open, the best action you can take is to truly listen to what is shared. Explain the behavior or action that you saw from your team and the impact that behavior has on you and on the team overall and then be an active listener as your team responds to your statements.
Own Your Part – in order for us to work together, we must communicate. If your team is doing things that make you angry, it is likely that you need to ramp up communications on your expectations of them and do some work to ensure that they are aware of and have a plan for meeting your expectations.
Be Generous – Its easy to make up a destructive and villainous story about why the team is behaving the way it is. Train yourself to be more generous in your thoughts, as you would a best friend or a child. Allow yourself to acknowledge what this person does well instead of only focusing on things that need to change.
Hold Accountability – be ready to hold your team member accountable WITHOUT blaming or shaming them. This means not making who they are wrong or blaming them for every aspect of the situation. This is where some of the root of your question seems to be – when you are angry, it is difficult to provide feedback with accountability and without blame or shame, so calming down and letting some time pass till you can be more objective is a key skill in providing feedback.
Model the openness you want to see – getting critical feedback can be difficult. In order to make it effective, you want people to be open to hearing it and willing to take action. That requires that you are also open to hearing an alternative perspective, stay open to solutions you might not have thought of and own and be responsible for actions you need to take leaving the discussion as well.
If you feel the feedback isn’t timely enough, acknowledge the delay in providing feedback because you needed to get your thoughts together and calm yourself a bit. I suggest you not wait too long though before you provide feedback, even if you wait till the next day – that gives you a night to sleep on it – carving out time to provide the feedback while you and your team can easily remember the details of the behavior you want to address is most effective.