A friend of mine recently attended the Global Leadership Summit and was enthusiastically sharing with me an excellent talk she had heard about giving feedback. It sounded as though the talk had been tailored to the audience and had covered a lot of ground in a mere 30 minutes. It made sense.

colored-pencils-686679_1280Feedback is considered an essential component in leadership development and as such, a great deal has been written and said on the subject. However, everything I have read has always come from a very western frame of reference. Now if the intended audience is western then that isn’t a problem but, with increasing multi-cultural workforces and markets, applying western management techniques (in this case feedback) is problematic.

There are two obvious challenges with how we give feedback

There are two obvious challenges with how we give feedback. Click To Tweet

1. Feedback is always culturally nuanced.

Anyone who has waded into global cultural diversity knows what a minefield this is and it takes very sharp minds and spades of emotional intelligence to make sense of cultural diversity and develop cultural dexterity. Feedback is one topic that cannot be meaningfully explored without taking into account the culture one is dealing with at the point of providing feedback. Understanding one’s cultural context is essential in talking about feedback and everything we know or believe to be ‘true’ in the west when it comes to feedback can be thrown out the window when for instance, you are working in Japan.

2. Feedback is always personally nuanced.

There is another essential facet to take into consideration when giving feedback and that is personality. A basic understanding of the Enneagram will immediately clarify the importance of considering personality when giving feedback. There would be some who would need a deliberate, building of a case, a logical, step-by-step approach and others for whom such an approach would merely frustrate and get in the way of the feedback being heard.

The aim of any feedback is to have the 'message' heard. Understanding both the #culture and the personality involved become pivotal filters. #enneagram Click To Tweet

The aim of any feedback is to have the ‘message’ heard. Understanding both the culture and the personality involved become pivotal filters in getting the message across. Very often a common mistake is that the person giving the feedback does so in a style and manner that ‘makes sense to them’. In other words, they give the feedback in a way that they would like to be given feedback were the roles reversed. The trick is not to fall into this trap; the challenge is to frame the feedback in such a way that the person receiving it can ‘hear it’ and act on it.

Easier said than done.

Resisting the urge to give a list of five or six easy ‘how-to’s’ (there can be no such list in such a delicate and complex area as culturally and personality nuanced feedback) there is a practical suggestion I would like to offer.

Next time you are required to give some formal feedback, throw out the ‘rule book’ and ask yourself two questions:

1. What is the culture divide involved in this instance?
2. Who is the person to whom I am giving the feedback?

If these two questions don’t provide you with deeper clarity on how best to approach your feedback session, then you have a lot of work to do! But, by asking them every time you engage in such a session, over time the insights will grow and the feedback will become easier.

Keith Coats has just returned from spending time as  ‘Associate Faculty’ for the EastWest Centre leadership programmes. The two programmes he is involved with are the  Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP) & Pacific Islands Leadership Program (PILP). There are 62 participants for 29 countries, representing 16 different sectors / industries. It is the most diverse Leadership Development Programme ever. Keith has been involved with the programmes annually for the past 14 years in this capacity. Do leave your details here if you would like to set up a coffee with Keith to explore how you could use this experience and knowledge to enhance, and get the best out of the diversity in your team.

I’d like more information