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How to Deliver Effective Feedback On Board

Feedback. It’s important and you know it. According to American author Kenneth Blanchard, ‘feedback is the breakfast of champions’, and the giving and receiving of feedback is probably one of the most vital skills required by a leader to ensure they keep a highly-motivated crew who continue to learn on a day-to-day basis.

“Continuous feedback is necessary in supporting your crew in their personal and professional development as well as aspirations,” says Karine Rayson, Director of The Crew Coach. “However if feedback is not delivered correctly, it can have grave consequences for the individual, yourself and the team. As a leader, you should walk alongside your crew, supporting them in becoming the best version of themselves. This involves giving praise when it is due and giving constructive feedback when required.”

Not only is effective feedback vital to the seamless running of the yacht and the guests’ experience, it’s also important to remember that constructive feedback (not criticism!) is positive for crew development. “Feedback should be objective and based on fact. It’s not subjective, opinion or perspective,” says Karen Passman, Founder of Impact Crew. “Feedback cannot be given based on hearsay and, if necessary, you may need to go out of your way to hear the individual for yourself.”

“Feedback is a 360-degree process – feedback up, down and sideways,” adds Sara Ballinger, Managing Partner of Crew-Glue. “It should be part of the culture and completely normal, not a once a month formality or surprise. It should also be balanced – only giving feedback when people are off-track is not helpful, we need to know when we are on-track too.”

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So what tips can our three experts provide on the best way to deliver constructive feedback without generating negative feelings among the crew team? Here’s how to ensure you get the outcome you need:

Think about your language: “My pet hate is the term ‘negative feedback’ because there is no such thing. There is criticism, which is opinion-based, and there is developmental feedback, which has the intention of giving someone an insight into their performance or behaviour in order to allow them to develop. That’s a really positive thing – no negativity there! There is also a difference between praise, which is lovely but not particularly helpful, and motivational feedback, which tells you exactly what you did, and why it was so great! It’s all about how you deliver it.

“The acceptability of feedback often depends on how it is given, rather than what is said; tone of voice and body language are as important as the words used. We are all fluent in body language and that includes picking up on the micro-inequities that tell us what people are really thinking. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication too.” Sara Ballinger

Think about your timing: “When you are ready to deliver feedback, do it at a time that is suitable for you both. You want to eliminate extraneous distractions as much as possible. Also do a check-in with yourself - giving feedback when you’re emotionally charged is certainly not appropriate. If you need some time to cool off, take it! But don’t delay too much, as this will dilute the effectiveness of the feedback and give the impression that the behaviour is not a big issue.” Karine Rayson

“Deal with any issue as soon after you have observed it as it reasonable. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to tackle and the less power it has. That counts whether you are giving developmental or motivational feedback.” Sara

Be specific: “Be prepared with specific examples that you have personally heard or observed and make them aware of the ‘impact’ of their actions - whether positive or to help explain the reasons and need for change. Just because someone chooses to tie a bowline in a different way to you does not make it wrong. However, if their method would not be possible with the heavy mooring lines on your vessel, you do now have a reason to say so.” Karen Passman

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“What are you giving feedback on? Name the behaviour and be specific on what you would like to see instead. When you give feedback, be flexible in your approach; if there is room to troubleshoot the problem together then I highly recommend you do so. This will increase the individual’s ownership of the problem thereby enabling them to become active change agents. Don’t make the individual part of the problem but rather part of the solution.” Karine

Question your own intention: “If you are ever unsure whether you should be delivering feedback, simply ask yourself what your intention is. If it is for your employee’s benefit, safety, reputation or development, then do it. If it will help build their confidence, recognises their contribution or demonstrates your appreciation of them, then do it. If it is because you don’t do it that way, you don’t like something or you would rather a job was done your way, be aware that this is more about your opinion and that you could be diminishing their right to their own ideas and values.” Sara

Don’t point fingers: “Constructive feedback is about focusing on the outcome and how you can reach that point together. Perhaps the employee requires your mentorship or support. Ensure that you follow through by checking up on the individual post feedback – by targeting their personal attributes, you won’t influence the outcome, you’ll only aggravate the issue so remain objective and focus on the facts rather than making it a personal attack.” Karine

Plan for difficult reactions: “Put yourself in their shoes and be an empathetic listener.” Karen

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Remember to ask for feedback too: “If your captain or head of department is busy or preoccupied, it might not be the best time to ask for feedback but you can definitely ask for some notice. Be specific about the feedback you need – is it about your grooming, guest service, technical skills or development in your role? The clearer you are about what you need from them, the more useful the feedback will be.” Sara

The importance of compromise: “This is key in these situations, and a lighter touch conversation would be better. No-one should be forced to change who they are or their own values – pressure to do that might give you superficial conformity but there will also be underlying resentment. Feedback on behaviour that is difficult to change may often make the person self-conscious and anxious, which may also affect their emotional wellbeing.” Sara

Remember to follow up: “If there has been an agreed ‘change’, it’s absolutely vital that progress is followed-up within a reasonable time frame. Whether a skill or behaviour, further discussions and possibly feedback, are necessary to monitor progress.” Karen

For more details on how you can harness your leadership skills and become the leader you want to be, please get in touch with the experts:

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First published on 29/10/2019, updated on 09/11/2020
Images: Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash

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