Given in the right ways, feedback can be life-changing and help people reach their potential. Given in the wrong ways, it can be ineffective and demoralizing - and even make performance worse.
So, whether you’re dealing with your boss, colleague, or employee, it’s best to remember what Spiderman says: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Here are some tips on making sure to wield the power of feedback for the forces of good. And, you can also refer to our post on How to Have Difficult Conversations for guidance on approaching feedback.
1. Create a supportive, positive, safe atmosphere
Always be mindful of how the feedback is intended, delivered, and could be received. If the feedback intentionally or unintentionally comes across as mean-spirited or embarrassing, it probably won’t improve any behaviors - and might even make them worse.
→ According to one study, people usually only apply feedback about 30% of the time.
→ To maximize the likelihood of someone taking your feedback seriously, focus on making them feel respected, supported, and comfortable.
→ It’s important to approach feedback with the right mindset - of helping the person and the organization to improve, and coming from a place of positivity, fairness, and true investment in their growth.
→ Remember that one size doesn’t fit all.
- If you have a direct/frequent working relationship with someone, understand how they like their feedback - direct vs. sugar-coated, etc.
→ Don't make assumptions.
- Try to objectively understand the bigger picture.
- For instance, avoid starting off with something like "Hey Ali, you haven't been meeting deadlines recently, and that's affecting our ability to deliver to clients." Instead, seek to first understand. Maybe you're not setting realistic expectations or giving clear guidelines and directions. Or, maybe they’ve been struggling with their manager on the team but didn't feel comfortable sharing that with you - which means your company needs to build a better feedback culture.
- Also, avoid putting people on the defensive with a statement like “You’re struggling with XYZ.” It’s better to say “The way I interpret the situation is that you're struggling with XYZ.”
- Instead of confronting someone with assumptions, it’s always better to express that you’re seeing a situation a certain way and want to understand how they’re seeing it.
→ Use first names.
- When you use someone’s name in a conversation, it helps you create a stronger rapport with them and makes them feel that your efforts are personalized.
→ Always remember that there’s a human being on the other side of the table.
- Show that you’re trying to be fair, have good intentions, and care about them.
2. Be clear and specific
The more specific you are, the more positive the outcome will most likely be. Framing the feedback in a positive way and basing it on facts and observations instead of judgments (which could make it seem personal) can make it even more effective - though some prefer not to link positive and constructive feedback.
- “I think you have a variety of skill sets and haven’t been in situations that really challenged you to strengthen more of them. Going forward, I’d like to see you volunteer for at least one more project per quarter that’s out of your comfort zone.”
- “I think you’re talented and can eventually be a major contributor to this team. And, I think optimizing your time-management practices will help you get there even sooner.”
- “I really enjoy our one-on-ones and learn a lot from you as my manager. I think they would be even more impactful if we didn’t have to reschedule so often because of your other obligations. So, I’d really appreciate it if we could try committing an hour each week to our sessions.”
→ When introducing constructive feedback with positive feedback, don’t connect them with “but,” “however,” or “although,” which can make the positive feedback seem insincere.
→ When relevant, you should also create a clear plan for improvement - with goals and solid ways to measure progress.
3. Create a culture of feedback
It's important to give regular, timely, and objective feedback. And, it's important to build systems in your team/company/relationships to make feedback a practice and a habit, so that it's well received and people are encouraged to give it.
Feedback is better understood and impactful when it’s in response to recent performance and is handled in a civil way.
→ If you wait too long to share feedback, it may be hard for them to remember which situations you’re referring to.
- And, they’ll end up going farther in the wrong direction, which makes their trajectory a lot harder to change.
→ For best results, you should give positive and constructive feedback regularly.
- Positive feedback encourages people to continue behaviors that help them be most effective at their jobs.
- Constructive feedback helps tweak behaviors to improve the success of your team and company.
→ Sometimes, you need to be tough and give very serious feedback. But, you should avoid being harsh and belittling - even if someone really messed up.
- Before sharing tough feedback, it’s good to start the conversation by asking for their view on the situation.
→ When pointing out something that needs to change, it's important to follow-up with realistic, actionable steps for improvement.
- Otherwise, it’s not constructive feedback; it’s just criticism - which won’t lead to optimal results.
4. Be open-minded and have a two-sided conversation
After giving feedback, make sure to let them share their viewpoint.
→ Listen thoughtfully and respectfully to their responses.
→ Be empathetic and try to see through their eyes, so you can understand the situation and them better.
→ By having a respectful, two-sided conversation, you’re more likely to get full cooperation and effort from the other person.
→ When someone shares their perspective, acknowledge them by saying something like "I can understand where you’re coming from." or "Thank you for being open to sharing your perspective. I had no idea."
5. Ask For Feedback, Too
When you’re done giving feedback, ask them to return the favor. This lets someone know that you really believe in the positive value of feedback and want to improve and grow, too.
→ This will help them take your feedback more seriously and objectively.
→ Ask specific performance-related questions, to show that you really want to benefit from feedback.
Please share this post with your networks using hashtag #nextplaymentoring. You can email me at Jenni@nextplay.ai if any of this resonated with you - and especially if you have a mentorship success story to share!