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Giving Feedback

 

Disciplines > Coaching > Process > Giving Feedback

Context | Content | See also

 

Giving feedback to a person is a way of helping them understand and accept the need to improving their performance. Here are some useful rules to consider when you want to give feedback that the person can accept and use.

Context

Before you give feedback, it helps to get the context right, setting things up so the feedback itself has the best chance of being understood and accepted.

Consent

Wherever possible, get the person to a state where they have given their consent to the feedback. Ideally, they should seek it and welcome it. At the very least they should accept that they are going to get it.

ASAP

The sooner the feedback is given after the event about which the feedback is being given, the easier it is for the person to accept and act on the feedback.

Private

If the person feels they are being criticized in any way, or that others present believe they have behaved less than acceptably, then they will also feel that their social status is being diminished.

Feedback given in private is hence far easier to accept than when given in front of other people.

Content

The content of the feedback should be optimized to help the other person understand, accept and act on it.

Descriptive

Describe how the person has behaved. Explain exactly what they have said and done. Describe the effect of this on others or otherwise how it has had a less than desirable effect.

The opposite of descriptive is judgemental, where how they behaved is held up against values and the person is hence condemned as bad or evil. When people are judged, they are more likely to excuse themselves or fight back than accept and act on the feedback.

Hence:

You sent an email to customers describing products which are not yet released.

Not:

It was wrong and stupid to send information about unreleased products to customers.

Specific

The feedback should be specific, describing what the person has or has not done. It should be clear and unambiguous so the person understands it in a single way.

The opposite of specific is vague, where a generic description is given that may be interpreted incorrectly or in a number of ways. Sometimes feedback is given in this way when the person giving it is trying to be kind or avoid the discomfort of saying things that may be taken negatively.

Hence:

You sent information on 3rd February about the Bander V3.2 to Richard King, Chief Executive of our customer KingBro.

Not:

You sent information some time this year to a major customer.

Supportive

Feedback should be given in the spirit of seeking to help the other person understand, accept and so improve themselves and how they behave.

The opposite of unsupportive is cold and inconsiderate. When you act in a way that assumes people are competent and caring, then this is likely to make them that way. When you act as if they are incompetent and uncaring, then this reinforces more negative behavior.

Hence:

I know you were trying to help sales when you sent unreleased product information to customers. Did you know that this is against policy? I'd like your commitment not to do this again.

Not:

You acted against company policy. I have no alternative but to enact the disciplinary procedure.

Balanced

When giving feedback about improvements, also remember to offer feedback about things that go well. There is often an optimal 'exchange rate' of the ratio of positive to negative points that makes this most effective. Typically this is one negative comment to three positive ones.

The opposite of balanced is one-sided. When you present one side of a situation it can seem that is all you perceived and that that is all which is important.

Hence:

You have worked well and your results have improved. I think you can improve them further if you take extra time in the first section.

Not:

You are getting the first section wrong.

Actionable

Actionable feedback leads to action. It is clear from what is said what needs to be done. This may be suggested in the feedback, or it should be reasonably easy for the recipient of the feedback to identify the action that needs to be taken.

The opposite of actionable is unactionable. Sometimes feedback seems reasonable yet there is no clear way to do anything about it. This only serves to frustrate rather than help the person improve.

Hence:

If you want to be promoted, you'll need to start with some management work. Have you considered doing voluntary work in your own time?

Not:

You are not senior management material.

See also

Leadership, Counseling, Communication, Giving criticism

 

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