Tips on Giving Feedback

‘I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.’
— Pablo Picasso

Why would you want to give feedback? Why is it important?

  • To give other’s feedback is a part of effective communication. Feedback matters.

  • To develop others and encourage good work by engaging effective performance feedback.

Providing feedback is a life skill. Whether we are aware of it or not, feedback is given all the time and is all around us in different forms. There are many effective ways to give feedback to others and it is a good practice to willingly and openly discuss feedback. The key to providing feedback is making it meaningful, having good intentions and having a genuine attitude that seeks to help others perform better. Continuing to practice and learn how to give feedback helps build confidence in your ability to deliver feedback effectively.

Quality feedback is a tool that helps people achieve their goal to do their job better. Giving feedback does not necessarily have to be top down. Rather feedback can be given at all levels and request for feedback can occur at all levels.

Do's and Don'ts of Giving Feedback

Do:

  • Provide open, honest, reliable and fair communication about feedback.

  • Relate it to development, learning and job performance.

  • Give with good intentions.

  • Make it transferable to actions.

  • Follow up on what you agreed to do.

  • Consider other’s point of view.

  • Appreciate where others are at in life circumstances and learning.

  • Give the opportunity to grow without being perfect.

  • Ask about the obstacles they face, and offer advice about how to tackle them.

  • Make yourself available for feedback.

  • Be specific but keep the big picture in mind.

  • Be a role model, actively seek feedback and model the behaviors you want others to follow.

  • Make it timely, consistent, credible and easy to understand.

Don't:

  • Give marks, letters, grades without explanation  description.

  • Assume your reality is the reality.

  • Make unsubstantiated statements.

  • Push or discount their reactions.

  • Leave feedback hanging or conversations up in the air.

  • Subscribe to office politics, gossip and hearsay.

  • Let your personal agenda get in the way of giving honest feedback.

  • Get them to see things your way.

The most useful feedback contains a direct statement describing the person’s behaviour in a factual, non-evaluative manner. The following four guidelines include examples of useful feedback.

1. Direct vs. indirect expression of feelings – Express your feelings, not the performers!

(Indirect) "Grace, you’re not trying to develop your writing skills."

(Direct) "Grace, I feel that you’re not taking the time and care to make your written assignments as good as they could be. This makes me uncomfortable because I believe you have the potential to produce high quality reports."

 
2. Description vs. interpretation of behaviour – Describe how the behaviour made you feel rather than interpret the other person’s behaviour.

(Interpretation) "You didn’t apply on the last two competitions that came up in our area. I guess you’re not interested in career development."

(Descriptive) "Since you didn’t apply on the last two competitions that came up in our area, I’m not sure what your career aspirations are."

 
3. Specific vs. general feedback – Comments should address specific behaviours.

(General) – "You have leadership potential."

(Specific) – "Over the past year, you’ve demonstrated good judgement and the ability to lead project teams. I’ve had good feedback on your leadership style; people say you are organized and communicate well."

 
4. Non-evaluative vs. evaluative feedback – Describe in non-evaluative terms your feelings about the behaviour and how the behaviour affects you. Evaluative feedback passes judgment on the other person and makes it difficult for the person to respond without feeling defensive.

(Evaluative) – "You’re not ready for a supervisory position because you can’t get along well with others."

(Non-evaluative) – "I’ve noticed in our meetings that you sometimes don’t listen to others’ ideas. I find it frustrating when you cut other people off as it stifles constructive discussion."
 

Some questions for starters:

  • "May I make a suggestion about how I see this being more effective?"

  • "You might want to consider ..."

  • "I thought that was a great meeting - can I tell you why?"

  • "How about approaching your project/presentation this way ..."

  • "Would you consider ..."

  • "I really like the way you approached that issue, let's talk about what went well."

  • "Would you like to hear my thoughts on how I would approach this?"

  • "Can I give you some feedback on x, y, z?"

  • "Does this help? Is it reasonable?"

What other things should I keep in mind throughout this process?

Things to keep in mind:

Giving feedback is not just about feedback forms.

Keep in mind that the art of giving feedback is not just about checklists, ratings, forms and reports that often yield predictable answers, rather, they are useful tools for providing feedback. Delivering feedback needs to be more than just filling out forms, feedback also needs to be conversational. This is not to say that written forms should be disregarded, however forms should not be used in isolation nor should they be used to replace face-to-face interaction and conversational feedback.

TIPS on giving feedback successfully:

  • Feedback on performance that is given as soon as possible is most effective.

  • Seek to provide feedback on a continual basis, ask for permission to offer feedback and be prepared to give feedback.

  • Describe what you are observing with examples, understand results and actions, and identify development opportunities.

  • Focus on delivering feedback in such a way that useful information is provided and that will allow for improvement of behaviour in the future.  If a performance improvement is made from a feedback, follow up with an acknowledgement about a job well done!

  • Enhanced your feedback by:

    • Acknowledge positive accomplishments, not just failures or mistakes.

    • Avoid judgemental comments.

    • Balance criticism with positive feedback.

    • Take an objective view, not subjective.

    • Focus on the performance, not personal characteristics.

    • Keep an open mind and a positive attitude.

    • Listen to people's reaction and comments to your feedback.

    • Offer solutions to problems and pinpoint specific examples.

    • Get feedback on your feedback!  Feedback is a two-way street.

  • Pay attention to how feedback is received - be conscious of how you can make it better.

  • Avoid making assumptions.  Make feedback conversational and give opportunities to respond.

  • Recognize behaviour may not change immediately, and some things come into view gradually over time with continued attention and feedback.

  • Understand that others may not agree with your advice or suggestion, don't take resistance to feedback personally.  Give feedback with well-intentions and a desire to help.

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Last Review / Update: 2014-01-17

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