8 Tips for better feedback

Feedback. How do you feel when you read (or hear) that word?

Thrilled at the prospect?

Despondent at the @%*t sandwich you reckon will be headed your way?

Curious and keen to learn more?

And what about when giving feedback is a vital part of your job?

Chances are if you manage people then giving timely and clear feedback is an essential part of your job. So no more ducking the issue. Yet whenever I run workshops on giving effective feedback there’s usually some discomfort at first around the idea of giving feedback. We can put plenty of obstacles in our path when it comes to feedback. But we need to get over, through or around those obstacles if we’re to do our job. Take these tips to get over yourself and start giving great feedback.

  1. Tell people how they’re doing

    First of all, remember that the term ‘feedback’ encompasses positive as well as developmental (or constructive, as some prefer) comments and observations. It’s all about telling people how they’re doing. Which is your job if you manage someone.

  2. Praise – without being a creep

    Notice when someone gets a task right – and say so. Praising is all too often in short supply at work, and we can all do with delivering it more often. The thing is to be specific and sincere – not vague and fake, high-fiving for no good reason – so we need to articulate what the person has done to merit the praise.

  3. Balance feedback

    Aim for more praising feedback than developmental. This may require you to look hard for what someone is getting right. Many of us are more likely to fault find when it comes to another’s work, and take their good performance for granted. So getting the balance right means we need to pay close attention to what they’re doing, rather than relying on our subjective view of them.

  4. No sandwiches

    Please don’t feed people sandwiches. It’s confusing and some souls will only take out the elements they want to hear. Praise gets devalued and criticism can be glossed over. Little and often is the best way to go, keeping positive and developmental feedback separate as much as possible.

  5. Time it right

    Don’t wait too long to give developmental feedback. Ideally do this as soon as is practical after you have observed the behaviour that needs to be addressed. If you’re enraged, OK, then take some time to calm down before you have the conversation. Don’t let the situation continue, or worse, save it until the person’s appraisal.

  6. Work out what to say

    That may sound really calculating, but it’s vital if you’re not – yet – in the habit of giving feedback to people. If you just launch in, trying to wing it, what you say could come off as a rant, or really insincere and land really badly. Write down a sentence or two that covers what you have observed the person say and do, then edit it to be brief and to the point.

  7. Get going

    If you’ve not yet cultivated the habit of giving feedback, build up gradually. Start with giving each of your team positive feedback over the coming week, and notice the difference it makes.

  8. Be brave

    Once you’re on the way with giving feedback you’ll be better able to receive it well. So be brave and start asking for feedback from colleagues. What’s working well? What can be better?

You may also find this blog post useful: Giving feedback? Fillet the fluff. Stick to the facts.

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