“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
I think it is fair to say that most people avoid giving feedback. I know it can make me feel uncomfortable. But I want the people I work with to be successful, and the best way I can help them is by giving them feedback.
What’s the problem?
Part of the problem can be that we tend to label feedback as positive and negative. Why would anyone want to give anyone something negative? Often even positive feedback isn’t really feedback it’s just a compliment. Saying ‘you did a great job’, is nice, but it isn’t feedback that the person can use to improve.
So, let’s get right back to basics.
What is feedback?
Feedback is information. That’s all. It’s information I have about you that you may or may not be aware of. And, as long as my only reason for giving that feedback is to help you improve, then all feedback has a positive intention.
Feedback does still tend to fall into two categories, feedback on something that someone is doing well is intended to motivate them to want to do more of it, so let’s call that motivational feedback. Feedback on something that you have noticed that could help the person improve is intended to help them develop, so let’s call that developmental feedback.
Changing your mindset to view all feedback as having the positive intention to either motivate or develop the other person will make it easier to give.
Now you just need to deliver it in a constructive way.
Give both types of feedback
If you want someone to respond well to developmental feedback, then you also need to be giving motivational feedback. The Losada principle suggests the ratio should be 5:1. That’s five examples of motivational to every developmental. That does not mean all in one go but if every time you get the opportunity to give motivational feedback you give it, then they will be much more open to the occasional piece of developmental feedback. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/losada-ratio.htm
Ask permission – Firstly, ask permission. Simply saying ‘is it ok if I give you some feedback’ will make it easier for you to give it. It’s unlikely that the other person will say no, even if they are thinking, no, please don’t! If they do say no. then that is their choice, but I bet they won’t.
Be constructive – Give feedback on things that can be changed. Saying that you don’t have credibility because you’re too young, is not helpful.
Be specific – Use observed examples that point out both the behaviour (what they said or did) and the impact of their behaviour.
It can be helpful to have a structure to help you deliver your message in a simple and constructive way. Try this:
1. I noticed that… Observed behaviour (what the person said or did)
This will make sure it is specific, what they said or did. This should be factual.
2. The impact was… The impact or effect of their behaviour
This is the subjective part, it is the impact from your point of view.
3. I suggest… If appropriate you could offer a suggestion for a new behaviour.
Here are a couple of examples:
1. I noticed that you were late again for our meeting.
2. The impact was we looked unprepared in front of the client.
3. I suggest next time we plan to meet early for coffee so we know we will be on time for the meeting.
1. I noticed that you asked lots of questions in the meeting.
2. The impact was you showed how interested and excited we are about the project.
3. I suggest you take the lead at the next meeting and build on that great relationship.
A quick note on receiving feedback
Feedback is a gift. This might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s true. When you give someone a gift, you give it in the hope that they will like it and use it. But we’ve all received gifts we didn’t want and have no intention of using.
If you are given the option to receive the gift of feedback here are some things to consider.
- Listen carefully.
- Be sure you understand it. They may not deliver it well so remember to ask for an example of specifically what you said or did that they liked or thought you should change.
- Don’t try to defend it, be open to it.
- Ask for suggestions about how you could improve.
- Thank them for giving it to you. Remember they might have felt uncomfortable giving it and they only did it to help you.
- Reflect and consider your options. You could try their suggestion, do something different or simply choose to ignore the feedback.
Now go on be brave, give someone the feedback that you know will help them.
If you would like to give me feedback I’d love to hear it, email firstname.lastname@example.org