Feedback, when given well, can be a powerful tool in developing skills, increasing motivation and improving performance, and is of great value both for professional and personal development. It helps us to reflect on our own behaviours, knowledge and skills and take ownership of improving them.
Many people shy away from giving feedback as they fear it can be become confrontational and emotional. However, effective feedback, like all skills, needs learning, practice and patience and if you follow the tips below you will start to find that giving feedback can be a positive and rewarding experience.
- Right place, right time: make sure you agree a time that is mutually convenient and allow plenty of time to discuss feedback rather than making the other person feel rushed. Never give feedback in public but always make sure you have a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted.
- Start with self-evaluation: before you give your own feedback ask the other person to give their own evaluation of the situation or their recent performance. You may well find that they have already thought about it and share some of your thoughts.
- Build a good rapport: make sure you use positive body language and tone of voice especially if giving less positive feedback. Show that you are sincere in wanting to help the person you are giving feedback to rather than simply being critical.
- Be clear and specific: don’t be too indirect or long-winded in your message and give clear, tangible examples rather than resorting to assumptions or second hand anecdotes.
- Don’t make it personal: remember that feedback should always be about performance or behaviour but never about the person.
- Avoid using words like ‘but’ or ‘however’ as these can negate what has come before. Instead try proposing alternatives using expressions such as ‘How about…?’ or ‘Can I suggest…?’ or ‘Have you thought about…?’
- Listen and allow the recipient time to respond: when we receive feedback we often need a few minutes to digest what we have heard so give your recipient the space to reflect and formulate their response and make sure you listen fully to what they have to say
- Prioritise: Focus on two or three actionable points rather than risk drowning the recipient or demotivating them.
- Keep a record of your conversation and follow up at agreed milestones: Feedback can be helpful in changing behaviours and improving performance but the recipient may need your help and support to be able to act fully on what you have told them
If you are positive in your attitude to giving feedback at work and take the time to plan your delivery you will see the benefits. And so will the people who receive your feedback.