6 ways to build a supportive environment for giving feedback

When starting your own big thing, you’ll encounter times when giving feedback is necessary. When doing so, keep in mind what Jack R. Gibb calls supportive behaviors.  Using this supportive approach allows you to create a safe climate so defensive responses are reduced.

Professor Gibb has this to say about defensive behaviors:

“Defensive behavior is defined as that behavior which occurs when an individual perceives threat or anticipates threat in the group. The person who behaves defensively, even though he also gives some attention to the common task, devotes an appreciable portion of his energy to defending himself. Besides talking about the topic, he thinks about how he appears to others, how he may be seen more favorably, how he may win, dominate, impress, or escape punishment, and.or how he may avoid or mitigate a perceived or an anticipated attack.

Such inner feelings and outward acts tend to create similarly defensive postures in others; and, if unchecked, the ensuing circular response becomes increasingly destructive. Defensive behavior, in short, endangers defensive listening, and this in turn produces postural, facial, and verbal cues which raise the defense level of the original communicator.”

6 ways to build a supportive environment for giving feedback

Description. Focus on describing very specific behavior so the person can repeat the behavior if it’s positive or isolate it if it’s negative. Be non-judgmental.

Problem Orientation. Focus on the task not on the person! Most importantly, focus on behaviors they can change versus labeling them “good” or “bad.”

Spontaneity. Give feedback immediately when you see the behavior, and make it relevant. Assure you don’t have any hidden agendas.

Empathy. Make sure you show your concern for others. Take the perspective of the person to whom you’re giving the feedback.

Equality. Own your comments, yet be willing to participate with the other person to define the problem. Come from a place of equality by de-emphasizing differences in power and/or ability.

Provisionalism. Be tentative and flexible. Demonstrate your willingness to consider alternate points of view and courses of action.  Use phrases like: “We could…One way we might do that is…or I think this is what is happening.” Remember things are not always what they seem.

Give positive feedback when you can and always give feedback because it truly is a gift.

Image from TW Training. See more of Amy’s insights at StartBIG.



Do the Positive; Avoid the Negative

Amy's horse, Poppy

As a little girl I dreamed of owning a horse but, alas, my parents didn’t share my dream. I was lucky enough to grow up near a horse farm so I was able to be around horses as a child. I always thought someday I would own a horse; but as I became an adult, my priorities were raising kids and working so I never got around to owning a horse.

Now as a forty-five year old woman, it’s finally that someday and I am living that little girl dream with my horse Poppy. Because it has been such a long time since I ridden a horse, I hired Lori, a riding instructor. During my horseback riding lessons, I’m often surprised to hear Lori coaching me on the same items that I work with for my corporate coaching clients.

Just last week Lori instructed me to make Poppy trot whenever he was behaving poorly. You see, every time Poppy and I passed the barn door he would pull on the reigns and act spooky. Lori coached me to make Poppy focus on some positive behavior so he won’t think about what’s scaring him. She says I need to make him trot so he’ll forget what’s making him nervous and stop his negative behavior of pulling on the reigns!

Focus on the doing the positive versus the negative

Earlier that very day I had said something very similar to a coaching client. My client, an accomplished salesperson, was working on cracking a tough account. She was worried because this account had issues with a product she had sold them earlier in the year. As we were preparing for her sales visit, she mentioned that when she gets nervous she tends to talk a great deal. She was concerned because she knew she would be nervous on this visit.

“What’s the opposite of talking too much?” I asked her.

“Listening well,” she replied.

“What things do you do when you listen well?” I asked.

“I ask questions and take notes,” she replied.

We then made an elaborate question guide and note-taking instrument. I told her to focus on the doing the positive (listening) versus the negative (talking to much)!

It is a simple lesson, really, when we put energy into what we do want to have happen because it takes the energy away from what we don’t want to have happen. This is true for Poppy as well as for all of us!

My question to all of you is what do you put energy into? Is there anything negative you are doing that you could avoid by putting energy into the positive?


How Amy Got Her Big On

Today’s guest post is from Amy Diederich, my fellow instigator in making a positive difference. Here she tells her story about why she was inspired to get involved with Get Your BIG On.

As far back as I can remember I have been goal driven. I worked my way through college holding down two jobs. I completed my degree graduating Magna Cum Laude. I won a full scholarship to pursue my masters degree. I completed that degree Summa Cum Laude while still continuing to hold down two jobs.  Once I had my masters I jumped into corporate America. I worked hard to move up the corporate ladder and did. I have always had the drive to own my own business.

I am first and foremost an entrepreneur and inventor. I am the daughter of a prolific inventor and entrepreneur. My father always encouraged his kids to start their own businesses. Three of his four children are entrepreneurs.

Starting BIG

In 1999 I left corporate America and started my own consulting firm, A-Squared Consulting. I am proud to say we were successful. We always operated in the black and always had plenty of business. My clients list was impressive: Adelphia, Vonage, and Comcast, to mention just a few.

In June of 2010 I felt compelled to merge my company with Jane Perdue’s (a former boss, client, and current mentor).   Jane shared her story of the pivotal moment when her boss refered to her as Aunt Polly.  This story hit a cord. You see I also had the proverbial whack on the head.

My Whack On the Head

A-Squared consulting did sales training at the company where my husband is CEO.  One day  I was introduced to a new senior leader who had just joined my husband’s team. After my role of sales consultant was explained, he commented to my husband, “How nice you given the ‘little woman’ something to keep her busy!” I was speechless! I don’t find myself speechless very often. I wanted to say well I agreed to work with this company to help my husband. My other clients are all fortune 500 companies.  The next few responses that came to me are not G-rated!  Any of the potential retorts that came to my head, however deserved, felt really shallow. I decided I will not say anything, but I will let my actions and results prove I had not been “given” anything.

I believe most people have had that time in their life where someone intentionally or unintentionally tried to make them feel little. For me Get Your BIG On is about helping people get past those moments and push through to live their BIG dream. When Jane contacted me I came to the conclusion that I had realized my dream and now it was time to give back and help others. I want to share how my dad inspired me to Start BIG! Give others the moxie to help them reach out for their dreams!

Get Your BIG on is designed to help you succeed in achieving YOUR dream. Your dream can be starting a company or simply starting a project. As the President of the Braithewaite Innovation Group, I get the chance to interact daily with people who are starting entrepreneurial adventures. I love to encourage them, help them find their market, and connect them with others who are chasing their dream. Please spend some time on our site. See what we have to offer. If there is something you need help with, we are happy to help!

My new dream is to help others see a new possibility, a new connection or relationship that will spark the next great invention or business.


Maintaining imagination and ingenuity

Today’s guest post is from Amy Diederich, President at Braithwaite Innovation Group.  While Amy’s career includes an impressive list of corporate America positions, she refers to herself as an entrepreneur and inventor. True to her inventor’s mindset, Amy skips over the boundaries between distinctly separate occupations to see the unique connection that no one else sees or envisions.

When I started my own consulting firm people cautioned me, saying “most small businesses fail within the first five years.” Everyone told me to start small - risk little. But as the daughter of a prolific inventor, I couldn’t heed that advice.

Seeing the world through an inventor’s eyes taught me to think BIG!

As far back as I can remember, my father was always tinkering and coming up with new creations.  He spent the first 44 years of his career as design engineer inventing new products for large corporations.  However, he always wanted to start his own business, and he never gave up on that idea. At 62, he took one of his inventions and started his own very successful business which he continued to run until he was 81.

Instead of listening to other people’s advice to avoid risk, I listened to my father who said:

  •  Always do what you love and do it BIG.
  •  Envision great success and plan for great success.
  •  See every opportunity as novel.
  •  Maintain an open and curious mindset that enables you to see beyond what is known.

Ten years later I am now co-founder of an even larger consulting firm. When starting a new business you must always see beyond what’s known because everything you will do is new to you. Be true to an inventor’s mindset and skip over the boundaries other people will try to set for you.

Always keep a spirit of imagination and ingenuity - embrace the inventor’s mindset.