The 3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts When Giving Feedback

- Practices & Exercises

by Sam at Management 3.0

It’s always important to give feedback, the question is how are you doing it and what’s the most and least effective way. At Management 3.0 we developed the Feedback Wrap, which we’ll get into below. But before we tell you how we deal with feedback we wanted to give a few overarching tips for the dos and don’ts. But first….

What does Feedback Mean?

The definition of feedback is the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process. It’s also the partial revision of the effects of a process to its source. An example of feedback is a judge in a competition that gives constructive criticism after a performance. These are concretet definitions, however, a lot of us have come to understand feedback as people telling us things we might not want to hear. But there are ways to make giving and receiving feedback easier. Here’s how.

Why Does Feedback Matter?

Feedback promotes and provokes growth, it gives people a sense of purpose and fuels employee engagement. People like to feel valued, which is why it’s really important to let people know that you see them, so they feel like their work matters. Feedback also improves professional relationships as it’s a chance to get things out, and not let issues build up. The more frequent the feedback, the better.

What To Do when giving feedback:

#1: Be Specific: When feedback is vague, it’s hard for people to understand what they need to change. The clearer you are about what’s bothering you, what you’d like to see done differently and which specific behaviour you’re commenting on, the easier it is for people to visualize the problem and take steps towards changing it, which in turn fuels employee motivation.

#2: Approach with Empathy: People don’t love being told what they could improve or what’s not going well. So when giving advice it’s important to be kind and empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes before you start speaking and ask yourself how you’d like to be spoken to if the roles were reversed.

#3: Focus on performance not personality: Don’t make it personal. Stick to the person’s behaviour, not their character. Keep feedback focused, based on fact and example and don’t let it veer towards aspects of someone’s personality that can be regarded as a low blow and unprofessional.

What Not To Do when giving feedback:

#1: Don’t wait for a quarterly review: Feedback should be punctual and timely. Give feedback as immediately as you can in relation to the issue you want to address. This way the person you’re speaking to will know exactly what you’re referring to. If you wait, things can be forgotten and then it’s harder to point out the behaviour that you’d like to see changed, especially as it relates to change management.

#2: Don’t take the sandwich approach: This method of putting negative feedback between two positives can create confusion for the person receiving it and also undermines your feedback. When you give feedback be direct and to the point.

#3: Don’t end it there: After you’ve given feedback it’s extremely important to follow it up, otherwise it’s harder to create any type of change. Let the person know that you’re available for questions or to talk things through and that you truly care about the outcome and about them as a person.

Now that we’ve delved into the Do’s and Don’ts, what are some of the things Management 3.0 advocates for with regards to feedback? Basically it can all be summed up in something we call the Feedback Wrap.

What is the Feedback Wrap? It’s a wrap that:

  • Describes the context: Start by offering context to increase the other person’s understanding and appreciation of your situation.
  • Lists observations: Offer observations, without finger-pointing, of specific examples and instance.
  • Expresses your feelings: Let the recipient know how you feel about the facts, create awareness of the impact of the facts without blaming anyone in particular.
  • Explains the value: Explain your needs, because the receiver just may not realize what is important to you.
  • Offers some suggestions: Allow the person to figure out what needs to be done to close the gap between needs and facts, and you offer a suggestion or two to move things forward.

The Feedback Wrap addresses a challenge many of us are trying to overcome with our teams: Giving actionable feedback, the kind that leads to positive, self-motivated action, not disgruntled teammates. As we mention above, annual and quarterly performance appraisals are rather useless, out of context and are dreaded by both sides, like a student in a principal’s office. Just like we need alternatives to the old annual bonus system, we need to dramatically improve how we give employee feedback.

We think it’s important to give feedback because:

  • It can keep the team going
  • It gives a feeling of belonging and purpose
  • It increases growth and happiness
  • It unlocks change and innovation
  • It prevents teams from being stuck and discouraged

Why do you think feedback is important and how do you give it? And if you’ve used our Feedback Wraps and want to share experiences, contact us or paste your comments below.

Photo credit Celpax via Unsplash

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