Feedback – The Gift


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We all receive and give feedback continuously. We may not realize it but we do give feedback when our food has not arrived on time, we don’t like the way we are being treated or the service we receive. This may mostly be negative or constructive feedback. There are times when we give positive feedback but on very occasions. Feedback can be directed to unkown person – cab driver, the waiter in the restaurant, Laundry man, paper boy etc.

If you think of it we don’t necessarily pay attention to how we give feedback. Since we give and receive feedback so many times a day, we would do a world of difference if we could observe and improve on the way we give feedback especially to those who really matter.

I was introduced to the concept of OFNR (Observe, Feel, Need, and Request) during a training session and thought it was an interesting concept. The way it works is that whenever you want to give feedback you can frame your conversation without blaming the other person. Typically when we give feedback we tend to blame the other person, which is entirely incorrect.

The basic tenets of feedback is that it should:

  1. Never be personal, the feedback should be on the behavior or the action and not about the person.
  2. We should not blame the person.
  3. Ask if you can give feedback
  4. Give feedback 1 to 1 and not in public

The OFNR concepts work very well and is very effective at work and in relationships. The execution of OFNR is very simple.

Feedback covers the four aspects Observe, Feel, Need and Request. Assume you want to give feedback to someone. You should simply start by asking if you can give feedback, feedback should be given 1 to 1.

Once you and the person are in the room, you can introduce the topic by saying you want to give feedback.

Start with Observe – Let the person know your observation’s, these are facts, the persons actions, data points etc, then inform the person that as a result of this action how this has made you feel. Eg if there is someone who has been coming to office late, let them know the number of time they have been coming late, is there a patter etc. Then you can inform that, how this makes you feel that they don’t enjoy the work, they are not interested to maintain decorum, it hurt your or made you feel angry.

The next is letting the other person know your need – tell them that you need them to come on time as the decorum needs to be maintained or this can ensure that they don’t miss out important points discussed in the team meeting etc. You need them be more accountable and report to work on time etc.

Lastly make a request – Request the person to adhere to work timelines and work ethics.

Many a difficult conversations can be overcome by using the simple OFNR concept. It appears to be overtly simply but if the message can be got across to the other person than why not. During the conversation it is likely that you may get into a discussion where the person receiving feedback may want to justify, clarify or refute the observations, showing empathy and understanding the other person’s point of view is very helpful during such conversations. What is important in this feedback style is that while you do give feedback to the person you don’t blame them rather you let them know your feeling, needs and wants. Hence one has be willing to be vulnerable while having such conversations.

For those receiving a feedback it is a gift, so welcome it with open arms.

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