By Deborah Petersen, from –

Practice, do it early, and always be interested.

Not all gifts come in neat packages, and this is definitely true of feedback. It is one of the more difficult tasks that business managers face, yet it is crucial for making workplace relationships more functional and people more productive, says Carole Robin, director of the Arbuckle Leadership Fellows Program at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“Very few people arrive at our doorstep fully developed,” Robin said last year in her lecture “The Power of Feedback.” Giving them feedback is one of the best ways to help employees develop and “be even more efficient and better at what they do.” The bottom line for getting better at giving feedback is to change “your mental model to ‘It’s a gift. It’s data. It’s data I didn’t have before with which I can now make more informed choices.”

If you do it right, the other person will also feel cared for, valued, and closer to you, she adds. Here are seven tips from Robin for doing it right:

1. Do it early.

Too often when someone does something that bugs them, leaders say it’s not a big deal. But then the person does the same thing again (and again). The more you delay saying something about it, the more annoyed you’ll become, and the less patient and effective you will be when you finally confront the person.

2. Avoid shaming.

Feedback can cause the recipient to feel shame or a loss of respect, particularly in certain Asian and Latin cultures. So be careful–nobody likes a bully.

3. Focus on behavior.

It’s impossible to change someone’s personality, but you can ask to change his or her behavior. The purpose of feedback is not to change someone else, but rather to motivate him or her to have a problem-solving conversation with you.

4. Stay on your side of the net.

Stick with the facts from your point of view, be behaviorally specific, and state the impact that the other person’s behavior is having on you. Avoid making “you” statements such as “you never listen to me.” Instead try something more constructive like, “I feel unheard when you don’t respond to what I’ve said.”

5. Be generous.

Assume that the other person thinks he or she is being reasonable. “Very few people get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, ‘I wonder how I could be a worse colleague today than I was yesterday,'” said Robin.

6. Speak to the person’s interests.

“People will consider changing if you speak to their interests,” Robin said. Show them how changing their behavior will help them and tell them why you are giving them this feedback–for example, you’re doing it because you care about their success, or because you are invested in having a productive relationship with them.

7. Practice.

“We have had occasions where we went to give somebody feedback, our intention was good, and then it felt like we stepped in a pile of doo-doo. Then we don’t ever do it again,’’ Robin said. “We don’t get better by not doing it again.”

This story was originally published by Stanford Graduate School of Business and is republished with permission. Follow them @StanfordBiz.

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