Feedback? Feed-Forward . . . Telling Your Family Business Leaders What You Really Think!

Father and son business team

I like to think of feedback more like “feed-forward.” You’ve seen the concept of “pay it forward” in movies and commercials over the years, and feedback can have the same effect. When offered with the right intention and skills, feedback can be a gift you give to your family business leaders not to move them backwards but instead to move them forwards towards the achievement of their individual pursuits, not to mention your family’s strategic intentions!

Feedback provides information about a particular action or behavior at a specific point in time. When performance is low, feedback can help others with the corrective actions they need to take to improve. When performance is good, feedback can reinforce positive and effective behaviors to ensure continued success in the future.

Feedback is important because it provides guideposts for everyone to stay on course. It also lets people know how they’re doing as well as when they may need to course correct. When someone doesn’t receive feedback, they can stray pretty far off course and that can make it very difficult for them to get back on track. Sometimes as a family business owner, you may avoid giving feedback to your children and other relatives in the business because you don’t want them to hear your “negative feedback.” More than that, you may be concerned about the devastating impact it might have on your whole family away from work! If you are a next-generation leader, you probably don’t offer feedback to your parents or other family leaders because you think it will be experienced as inappropriate and disrespectful. Regardless, you may not even feel empowered to do so.

What you all may not recognize though is that there’s no such thing as bad or negative feedback when you deliver your message respectfully and skillfully. All feedback in that regard is constructive and helpful for those you are trying to help. More than that, you may actually do more harm than good by withholding it.

Here are some strategies you can use to give feedback to your family business leaders so that it produces that “feed forward” effect and doesn’t come across as a personal attack or at all threatening. When delivering feedback, consider the following questions:

  • Is it timely? It should be close to the time of the incident. However, you should consider the environment, context and receptivity of the receiver.
  • Is it factual? Start with an observation instead of a conclusion or interpretation.
  • Is it specific? Address specific situations and provide examples. Don’t just say, “Good job.”
  • Is it genuine and authentic? Make sure you’re not just going through the motions. They can tell when it’s not sincere!
  • Is it proportional to the behavior? Be careful not to go over the top with insignificant actions. Save your stronger feedback for when it really matters.
  • Is it the right delivery method? Consider whether it’s accusatory or in front of others. Also, be aware of your tone and body language.

The STAR model below, originally created by the training and consulting firm Development Dimensions International for behavioral interviewing, provides a great framework for structuring your feedback conversation with any family member not to mention your other employees. This simple approach depersonalizes the message so it isn’t about him/her, but instead it’s about what he/she may have done:

  • ST = Situation/Task – Describe the situation or task you observed
  • A = Action – Describe the actions taken by the employee
  • R = Result – Describe the result of those actions

And if you need to offer constructive feedback to correct someone’s behavior, share the following alternative actions and results too:

  • A = Alternative Action – Describe the actions the employee should have taken and can now take in the future
  • R = Alternative Result – Describe the result that the alternative actions would have created and will now create in the future

If you don’t have time for a full discussion about the situation or incident, you can also use the Short-Cut method for giving feedback. Just be specific and describe exactly what you saw. Then, quickly highlight the result or impact created by those actions and/or the alternative result or impact that can be created in the future if different actions are taken.

So this year, I recommend you add one more leadership practice to your list of commitments for the year. Schedule one feedback session per week with one of your children or other family business leaders you work with. Add these appointments to your calendar as recurring events so you don’t forget to prioritize them. This will keep you and your family on track to meet – and maybe even exceed – your business goals for the rest of the year.

Are you afraid of damaging your fragile family relationships by giving someone feedback? Need some help crafting the right constructive message? Check out the Executive Coaching page of Plus Delta’s website for some valuable information on how best to develop your leadership skills and produce those breakthroughs in your family business. You can also give us a call at +1.310.589.4600 or email us if you would like to discuss this simple but powerful approach in further detail. Our coaches are standing by to help you improve performance through positive change!

Posted in Coaching, Commitment, Constructive Feedback, corrective action, Development Dimensions International, Executive Coaching, Family, Family Business, Family Business Leaders, Family Business Owner, family relationships, Leadership, Leadership Skills, Negative Feedback, Next-Generation Leader, NextGen Leader, Pay It Forward, STAR Model

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