Learn how to give great feedback
One of the most common complaints recorded during team evaluations is the lack of feedback, either from peers or managers. However, we do nothing to make the feedback process smoother and more organic. This article is here to help you change that!
Why should I give feedback?
First, you do it because you care. Giving feedback means that you want a person or team to improve and that you believe they have the potential to be even better than they are.
Second, fostering a team environment in which everyone feels safe to give and receive feedback means that no member of your team will hesitate to help each other avoid mistakes or offer new ideas for solutions. Your team will coordinate tasks more efficiently and won’t leave room for miscommunication because someone was too shy to clarify an issue.
From the company’s point of view, having a safe environment for feedback also creates confidence that the company will not fire someone the first time they make a mistake, and that will improve talent retention.
What is the best way to give feedback?
Up front, let’s acknowledge that receiving constructive feedback is difficult. It can be uncomfortable, it can feel embarrassing, and sometimes it can hurt us emotionally. So be prepared for some resistance.
Also, remember that the team member to whom you are giving feedback is not a bad person. They simply don’t know that a certain habit is bad for the team or the company.
With this in mind, let’s discuss how to offer feedback in a constructive and non-harmful way.
As Jory MacKay says in his article “The 7 Essential Qualities of Effective Feedback”, feedback has to be specific, timely, candid, and meaningful to be effective.
Foremost, there is an appropriate time to give feedback. Prepare the person you want to talk to in advance. Don’t give feedback out of the blue, at lunchtime, surrounded by co-workers. This will only serve to embarrass your team members.
The best way to give feedback is to invite your friend into a private conversation, explain in advance what the topic of conversation will be, and then talk together. Make it clear that you are not making fun of the person and that you are addressing the situation because you want to help them improve in a particular area.
Sentences like “You’re acting strange lately” and “You’re not yourself anymore” don’t mean anything. In her article “Feedback That Works”, Cynthia M. Phoel recommends using the following format as a guideline for giving feedback:
“I would like to talk about your <behavior>. Last <weekday> you did this, and it has caused some problems for the team, namely <the result of this behavior>. What do you think about the <possible solution>?”
Here is an example: “I would like to talk to you about punctuality. Last Friday you were late for our client meeting, which caused some problems for our team. Whenever you are late, we have to delay important topics of conversation to wait for you, wasting everyone’s time. What do you think about installing alarms half an hour before the meetings so that you know when you should arrive?”
Don’t forget to sugarcoat your feedback. Sentences like “You may or may not be doing X or Y” and “Sometimes you frustrate me” will only serve to confuse your colleagues or subordinates. This is why you should always use facts. Be clear about how you felt and what the expected result or behavior was.
Give many reasons to explain why a behavior is problematic or, conversely, many reasons why an employee did a good job.
“Your presentation was nice” feels too shallow and doesn’t show the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Try using speechwriter Simon Lancaster’s rule of three. “Your presentation was easy to follow, fluid, and welcomed audience participation.”
Last, but not least, remember that you may not know the whole truth. The situation may be a one-time occurrence or an exceptional situation. Don’t assume that you are right up front.
How should I receive feedback?
People tend to take feedback personally, so it’s important to reframe the way we think about it. Remember that feedback is rarely intended to be malicious.
Instead, consider that the person giving you feedback is your greatest ally. Instead of talking about your behavior behind your back, they respect you enough to share their thoughts directly with you. That’s a gift!
We all have behaviors that can hurt team performance, not because we are bad, but because we are unaware of such behaviors; that’s why we should always be grateful for every useful feedback we receive.
Now, there are some natural psychological defense mechanisms that you should be aware of. These defense mechanisms are designed to help you deal with embarrassing situations, and they are important, but they can become an obstacle when receiving constructive feedback. Here are some attitudes you should try to avoid when receiving feedback.
1 – Justifying every occasion
“That happened only once and it was on a day when I was very tired.”
“Well, that other time it happened because I was stressed and late in delivering some report”.
2 – Feeling persecuted
“You are doing this because you have something against me”.
“You are only saying that because you want to take my job”.
3 – Attacking the other person
“Who are you to talk to me about this?”
“Did I ask you anything?”
4 – Taking it personally
“Do you hate me?”
“I never thought you would do that to me.”
Remember, when done well, giving feedback is a kind act. Its sole purpose is to help you grow, both as a professional and as a person.
The best way to receive feedback is to write down what is being said, go home and think about it. See if there is at least some truth in the feedback you received. Be aware of your defense mechanisms and work to change anything you identify as bad behavior.
Finally, yet importantly, thank the person. It wasn’t easy for them to give you feedback, and they felt just as uncomfortable as you did.
How to start creating a feedback culture
Creating a healthy feedback culture evolves the entire team and requires making yourself vulnerable. Once your team realizes that receiving feedback is not as difficult as they thought, they will be more willing to both give and receive feedback. They will be more than happy to see their colleagues helping them become the best version of themselves.
Have you ever received feedback that changed the way you view your life? Share your story with us!
Does your company have a feedback culture? Tell us how it works!
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article? Share it with them!