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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Great teams thrive on feedback

Debra Quarles Salt DPM Consultant

Ten Tips for Giving Feedback:

1. Never give feedback when you are angry. Instead wait until calm has been restored. This also means, do not avoid giving feedback, allowing your emotions to build. The first time the employee acts in a manner not in keeping with your expectations, you should provide feedback.

2. Make sure the person giving the feedback is in a position of authority. As the dentist you are in this position, but in many of the practices I work with, others may also have authority. (In fact, in some practices, every member of the team is in authority and has learned how to give and receive feedback positively. Think of how strong this would make a team.) Make it clear to all employees who has permission to give feedback.

3. Ask questions to create joint ownership of the challenge: “How do you think you’re doing?” “How do you feel things are going with . . .?”

4. Most of any message is contained in our body language. When giving feedback your body language and tone of voice should be one of disappointment. When body language or tone of voice shows anger or irritation, it is less effective.

5. Feedback is generally better received when the employee grants permission to give it. “May I make a suggestion?”

6. Make sure your requests and statements are clear.  Some coaches recommend what is called the “sandwich technique,” where you make a positive statement, followed by your feedback and then another positive statement. This fools no one. They know what the real message is. More facts will lead to less interpretations of what you really mean. Too often we may try to soften the critique, which may in turn leave the other person confused as to what actually needs to be changed.

7. Use “I” statements to soften your comments. “I have found that when I . . .”

8. Know your employee: Are they very sensitive to critique? If so you may want to adapt your feedback, as it might be taken more personally.

9. Know yourself: Are you someone who appreciates feedback, do you tend to be harsher? If so, change to a milder tone.

10. Know that defensiveness may be your employee’s reaction to your words. This is because studies show when we are confronted with criticism we may feel our sense of belonging to a group is threatened. Knowing this can help you to give feedback while at the same time focusing on the employee’s inclusion with your current team. “You are a valuable member of our team, so I wanted let you know . . .” Or if it is now time for them to leave, how they might be a better fit utilizing their strengths in another practice.

Ten Tips for Receiving Feedback:

Some of us are more sensitive to feedback. It seems to attack our self-esteem, our sense of self. As dentists, you are constantly exposed to feedback. (The patient who is unhappy with your care or your office. The employee who feels you are not handling situations appropriately.) According to Peter Bregman, in a Harvard Review Blog post, feedback “exposes you to yourself, which is why it is both tremendously unsettling and exceptionally valuable.”

1. Do not become defensive. Just like when you are giving feedback to your employees or teammates, when you are the one receiving feedback defensiveness will probably be your initial reaction. You will want to reject the information.

2. Take a deep breath. Accept you are not perfect. No one is.

3. If you are being asked for permission to receive feedback remember how difficult it is to give feedback. Be grateful someone thinks you are worthy of his or her time and attention. Know that you can choose to receive the feedback now or later.

4. Remember, this is not about whether you are liked or not. This is the time to learn how you can improve.

5.  Listen. Somewhere in the feedback will be some important information. (Again, remember tip number 1, you are not perfect.) There will be some kernel of truth. If you are busy attaching any other meaning to the encounter, you will not be present to hear those words. Instead become quiet. Focus on the words spoken to you and attempt to grasp the message. 

6. Ask questions to clarify the meaning of the feedback.

7. Find the truth. Too often we focus on what is wrong with the comments being made. (“I don’t always  . . .”) Instead make a verbal statement accepting what portion of the feedback is correct. (“You are right, I do sometimes . . .)
8. Consider all the information that has been given. Evaluate. They may be seeing something you do not. Reflect. Have others made some of these same comments before?
9. Focus on how to solve the problem. What is being recommended?
 10. Ask for assistance, if appropriate, or change a system. Show you are willing to make the necessary change and ask for help to do it if needed.
Most important, remember feedback is a gift from someone who wants you to do well, thank the person who gives it.
Great teams take effort. Take time to work on your practice regularly to build teamwork and strengthen your results. For more information please visit us at www.saltdpm.com.

Debra Quarles is a positive focused, motivated professional with over 25 years of experience in the dental field. She has a unique ability to assess dental practice productivity and a keen talent for communicating.  Experience has accustomed her to handling all types of issues that arise daily in dental offices and with dental teams of any size.

Article originally published by: Tri-County Dental Society
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