Giving Feedback After a Negotiation
How to give feedback after negotiating? Not always an easy skill to get right. Steve Jones' shares his personal top 7 points on how to give feedback.
Smart people ask us: “How do I give feedback to my colleagues after a negotiation?” Giving feedback to colleagues can be a delicate topic. As such, feedback is an area we invest plenty of time into during our negotiation skills training seminars. With this in mind, we thought you would like to know Steve Jones’ top seven points on how to offer feedback.
1. Give the feedback immediately
After the meeting has finished, give your feedback straight away. It’s far easier for people to take in feedback immediately after the meeting, while the event is still fresh in their minds.
2. Remember that people are not their behaviors
Describe what you have seen rather than labeling people as their behavior. For instance: “The way you point your finger may be interpreted as aggressive” is appropriate. “You were very aggressive” is much less appropriate. Negotiators can do little about your feelings about them, but can do a great deal when you put specific behaviors under the lens.
3. List the positives first
Encourage your colleague to initially focus on what they have done well. Be sure to praise their areas of negotiation skill. Don’t allow your colleague to start discussing potential improvement areas or their mistakes at this stage. It is important for building negotiation competency that people can acknowledge what they have done well. This will go far in building their confidence.
If your colleague starts self-deprecating or refuses to identify positives, you should step in and list the positives you observed. Make sure that your colleague has acknowledged your positive feedback. It’s unproductive for anyone to dwell on their own self-criticism.
If you feel they are dismissing your praise, you may want to ask your colleague to paraphrase your point back to you. This has the effect of reinforcing your statement. You could also ask a question to check that your colleague understands. For example, “How did you know to…?” or “Where did you learn to…?” We find this works very well.
4. Be specific
Use specific examples of both dialog and behavior to explain your points. This means you need to note exactly what your colleague says and does during the meeting. So, keep a pen and some paper handy and schedule enough time during breaks to note down some useful points.
5. Acknowledge different negotiation styles
Resist passing on your own negotiation style or prejudices. This can be tempting, especially if you have recently taken a class and know what the latest best-practice negotiation thinking is. While it’s useful to share your knowledge, resist telling your colleague how you would have handled the situation. Remember, this is not a chance for you to sing your praises but to build on your colleague’s skills.
If there are other people in the meeting, you may want to ask them for feedback. However, don’t allow others free rein in the discussion. We have observed the dangers of uncontrolled feedback by others on some of our best sales training seminars. Uncontrolled feedback can be destructive, and in some cases, the advice can also be plain wrong. So, it’s very important to filter others’ feedback and, when possible, ensure it is given in a positive, constructive way.
6. Be constructive, not destructive
When you give feedback on improvement areas, make sure you use positive phrasing. Instead of, “You didn’t do this very well,” try, “You could improve this by…”
“Constructive, not destructive” is the golden rule when giving feedback. Instead of criticizing, ask questions and offer suggestions. This is a great way of making sure the takeaway message is understood and can be used effectively. For example, ask your colleague what course of action or behavior they think would have been more beneficial. Alternatively, offer suggestions yourself.
7. Touch on the three key areas
There are three areas that need to be reviewed after most meetings. The first is behaviors observed. The second is the outcome of the negotiation. The third is the processes, toolsets, strategies, and tactics employed.
For building capability, it is critical that the emphasis you give is more on the behavior than the outcome. Behavior is the lead indicator. A negotiator conducting themselves well secures better results more often. (Although, unusual behaviors are also sometimes very effective. This is the subject of other articles.)
The outcome is a lag indicator, and is usually as a result of the behavior. The competency of the other side massively affects your outcomes. If, for instance, I negotiate with you and I am very aggressive, and you are timid, my behavior is likely to be effective. If, on the other hand, you are as aggressive, the meeting is likely to end up in an unproductive deadlock.
So, aggressive behavior is not consistently effective. It is naive to not discuss outcomes in detail in real-life settings. In seminar or in-house simulations and exercises, the outcome should not be focused on. It can be seductive to get drawn into conversation about the outcome, but these temptations are best resisted. The result of too much outcome focus is often low appetite for risk and side-stepping responsibility.
Taking a step out of the behaviors can be useful to observe whether your:
Processes were profitably followed.
Toolsets were used effectively.
Strategies were adhered to.
Tactics were effectively employed.
This, of course, requires that your team prepare effectively, else you won’t have a yardstick against which to compare your performance.
Team negotiations are more often reviewed internally as compared with individual or one-on-one negotiations. Having a colleague offer advice can be invaluable. Some clients bring a senior executive into meetings and wisely have the senior take a backseat role. Why? The senior executive’s sole purpose is to train the negotiator/s afterwards.
If you’re negotiating on your own, some aspects of feedback are not possible. We strongly urge you to have the discipline to review your own negotiations as a matter of good habit. It’s no mistake that star athletes regularly review their own performance and set themselves goals. When successful enough, star athletes enjoy coaches’ sage feedback. So, who do you think would be your best negotiation coaches?