Giving Feedback

Feedback like nearly everything else you will read on this site needs to come from an honest interest in helping the person (I think a mantra is starting to form). If that is your goal then you are already halfway to providing good feedback. Here are some other tips that can be used with the people you work with, both peers and managed employees.
Ask yourself – Were the expectations clear on what was expected? Is the dress code clearly described? Phone etiquette? If not then stop there, go and make it clear to everyone and give people the opportunity to work with it. I must have stopped myself at least 50% of the time right here, lifted my communication and never provided feedback.

Be quick – Feedback needs to occur as close to the event as possible. The details are fresh and can be properly explored in the feedback conversation.

Be specific – A tangible piece of behaviour/outcome/gain/loss etc needs to be identified. Some feedback can be difficult and we end up fluffing around the point. Be sure of the point and how you are going to articulate it before starting e conversation.

Provide Impact – While you’re being specific you also need to talk about what impact the behaviour/outcome/gain/loss had on you/the team/the company etc. This is a really important point, someone being constantly late to work might be what is being discussed, by why it is important is why it is being discussed. You will probably also find that is the part of the conversation hardest to argue with if your feedback is coming from the right place.

Outline the options – Its important people also understand where it will get them if they continuing what they are doing. It re-enforces the impact and also sets expectations. This may be as specific as outlining formal warnings and an exit path from the company.

Speak for yourself – After all it is your observation or evaluation that is lead to the feedback. Make sure you own it and speak from that perspective – ‘I feel that…..’, It appeared to me that…..’. Don’t speak for others either, it generally only causes people to become defensive and loses impact.

Listen – You could have got things wrong. Even the most confident of us need to consider the many sides to an event. Consider the receivers point of view, if you feel it is still appropriate you can repeat the point of feedback until it is understood. You may even get some feedback yourself which you can work with to avoid the situation next time.

Right time and place – The end of a tough day when people are tired and stressed may seem like a good idea; nip it in the bud, strike while the iron is hot. Better to find a place where you won’t be interrupted, there aren’t any distractions (e.g. phones) and both parties have clear minds.

Seek agreement – An important part of feedback is to clarify it is understood and agreed with. Not in a ‘got it, right then lift your game’ kind of way but clarity that the item of feedback was understood along with the impacts. The best way to achieve this is to get the other person to explain back to you what they understand.

Remember feedback is a discussion, you have a clear message that needs to be understood but it is still a two way discussion. Be prepared for disagreement and defensiveness; keep returning to the specifics, the impacts and the options until there is agreement. People always appreciate clarity and while the conversation may be tough the relationship gets stronger.

Now go back and read this imagining your providing positive feedback – apart from outlining the options it all applies equally.

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