“I can see you’re really trying Hayley but it’s important that you flatten your back” said my Trainer as she likened my attempt at planking to the shape of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Her direction makes the pose harder but improves my technique which over time, will make it easier. I remind myself of this through gritted teeth.
Feedback is never easy to hear but handling it is probably one of the most important skills a Paraplanner can possess. The best Paraplanners I have and still do work with are pro’s at ‘taking it on the chin’ however, only when it is delivered in the right way.
A few months ago, I reviewed an SOA after an Adviser’s complaint. It had 214 comments in 40 pages. The vast majority of the feedback was comments such as “dot point”, “I don’t like how this is worded”, “this is weird” etc.
Imagine being on the receiving end of this. Especially after spending hours on it already.
So, what does effective delivery of feedback look like?
We’ve all heard of the “feedback sandwich” – something good, something to improve, something good. It sounds a little like this “Hey Tom, I can see you’ve put a lot of work into this one which I appreciate. There are just a few things here that need a little improvement but overall, I think you’ve done a good job”.
This method disarms the recipient. They don’t need to get defensive because there’s good and bad in the feedback and it doesn’t come across as an attack.
In addition, the actual format in which you deliver the feedback can be just as important. I’ve seen so many different methods, but the most successful delivery is when the Adviser talks through the changes with the Paraplanner in person.
If this is not possible in person, consider marking up the document (comments and mark up in Word) and using screen capture video to talk it through. This allows the Paraplanner to watch (and re-watch) your explanation in their own time.
Finally, the third key to providing feedback is coming from a place of empathy. This doesn’t mean being a pushover or letting things slide, it’s about putting yourself in the receiver’s shoes and asking yourself “is my feedback clear, fair and enabling the Paraplanner to do their best work?”.
If they’re new to the role, focus on the big stuff first because SOA’s are so subjective, there are a lot of nuances that even the most experienced Paraplanner will take time to get it right.
My advice for the Paraplanners out there is to try to learn how to take the emotion out of receiving feedback. I know it can be tough having every piece of your work critiqued but it comes part and parcel with the role. If you’re not understanding the feedback or don’t agree, have that conversation with the Adviser.
Both of you are working towards a common goal of delivering advice successfully. Open the communication, set expectations and build a relationship through understanding. Only then will the handover become seamless and feedback will eventually become non-existent.
By Hayley Knight
AFA Pulse National Chair