effective feedback

Feedback is an integral aspect of any professional setting, as it enables teams to improve their efficiency, rectify mistakes, and foster sustainable growth. Nevertheless, giving effective feedback is easier said than done – it requires a delicate balance of being honest and tactful, while also ensuring that the message is received positively and constructively. Here, we explore how to provide input that is both lucid and impactful.

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What is Effective Feedback?

Feedback is a form of communication that offers detailed, timely, and practical information about an individual’s performance – with the ultimate goal of aiding them in their personal development journey.

Effective feedback concentrates on behaviors and actions, rather than personal traits or characteristics. Its content is tailored to the individual’s objectives and requirements, while also being presented in a kind and courteous manner.

When administered appropriately, feedback can assist individuals in developing a deeper sense of self-awareness, boosting their performance and productivity, and achieving their personal and professional aspirations. According to a study by Gallup, employees who receive regular feedback from their managers are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged at work than those who don’t. Additionally, those who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

Examples of Effective Feedback

Receiving positive input has been proven to result in similar emotional benefits as affirmations, regardless of the source. In particular, when managers offer precise and relevant feedback to their staff, it can influence their outlook on their job and potentially change their career path.

Below are some instances of effective feedback observed in a work setting:

Example 1:

“I saw the report you put together for our project was comprehensive and thorough. Great job on the research, organization, and presentation of the data. The next time you work on a similar project, I suggest breaking down the content into smaller sections to make it easier to follow.”

Example 2:

“I noticed that you were often late to meetings and missing deadlines. If you would like to improve in this area, I suggest setting alarms on your phone as reminders and creating a checklist of tasks that need to be done each day.”

Example 3:

“I’m so impressed by your dedication to learning. I know it wasn’t easy when that technology solution you presented didn’t work out – and I’m amazed that you managed to distill feedback from all those stakeholders and find a new, viable solution that everyone loves.”

Example 4:

“Change is hard. You’ve handled this merger with calmness and clarity and it has had a significant impact on the morale of the rest of the team. I can’t thank you enough.”

Characteristics of Effective Feedback

Here, we have compiled a list of a few golden rules when it comes to giving feedback:

  • Specific: Effective feedback is precise, providing specific examples of what the individual did well or needs to improve. For instance, instead of using vague language such as “Your presentation wasn’t great“, it’s better to say something like: “Your presentation would have been more effective if you had included more visuals to support your points.
  • Timely: Such feedback is given promptly after the event or behavior in question – so that the individual remembers the situation and may take necessary action.
  • Objective: Input is not subjected to the giver’s own personal biases (e.g: “I thought your presentation was boring“); rather, it is offered from a neutral perspective to avoid misunderstandings and improve objectivity (e.g: “During the presentation, you read directly from the slides, which hindered your engagement with the audience“).
  • Respectful: Effective feedback is delivered in a respectful and supportive manner – with a focus on the individual’s strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Constructive: The aim here is to help the recipient grow, rather than simply pointing out their mistakes. For this reason, suggestions for how they may improve and make changes are always included.
  • Consistent: Finally, effective feedback is provided on a regular basis – so that the recipient always maintains a clear visualization of their performance and how to move forward.

Effective vs Ineffective Feedback

Effective feedback entails a clear and concise message that is respectful, specific, and actionable. Rather than focusing on the individual’s personality or character traits, it places a strong emphasis on the recipient’s specific behaviors – and makes use of positive reinforcement to encourage them.

In contrast, ineffective feedback is often characterized by vagueness, generalizations, and a lack of practicality. It may also be critical or disrespectful in tone, failing to offer any suggestions or solutions. Consequently, it falls short of providing the necessary support and guidance for professional growth and development.

Effective Ineffective
  • Clear
  • Relevant
  • Timely
  • Specific
  • Honest
  • Task-directed and impersonal
  • Targeted at observable and actionable behavior
  • Explains reasons, impact and the way forward
  • Tailored to the employee
  • Unclear
  • Trivial
  • Generic
  • Condescending
  • Blaming
  • Shaming
  • Personality focused
  • Manipulative
  • Used for retribution

7 Key Principles of Giving Effective Feedback

Be specific and descriptive

When giving feedback, it’s essential to be clear and concise about what you have observed. Describe the action taken and the impact it has had, rather than making personal judgments.

For example, instead of saying “You’re not very organized,” say “I noticed that you didn’t have a clear plan for this project, which made it harder to achieve your goals.”

Focus on the positive

While it’s essential to highlight areas for improvement, don’t forget to emphasize the positive contributions the receiver is making. Start by acknowledging what they are doing well and build from there. For instance, “I appreciate how you have been taking on more responsibilities and showing initiative in our team meetings. Let’s see how we can build on this momentum.”

Refrain from the urge to enforce

Effective feedback requires a collaborative process – in which both parties work together to achieve the desired outcome. Rather than dictating what the recipient should do, facilitate an open discussion about the necessary changes – and explore possible alternatives. From then, they should be able to come up with their own solutions.

Read more: What is Coaching? How to Become a Good Coach

Be timely

The sooner feedback is provided after a behavior or action is observed, the more effective it will be. Waiting too long to give input may result in missed opportunities for improvement.

Show that you really care for them

Feedback should be offered with the intention of helping the other person create positive change or reinforcing positive patterns. Therefore, make sure to show empathy and understanding by acknowledging the receiver’s feelings and concerns.

Check for understanding

Before ending a feedback discussion, ensure that both parties have a fair and accurate understanding of the issues that occurred. Ask questions to clarify any misunderstandings and encourage the receiver to provide their perspective.

Follow up

If both parties are able to come up with an action plan for behavioral change, follow up regularly to provide support and ensure progress is being made. For example, schedule regular check-ins to discuss how the changes are going – and offer additional feedback as needed.

Strategies for Providing Effective Feedback in the Workplace

Ask for permission first

Before offering any advice, make sure to ask the person if they are open to receiving feedback. This shows that you respect their feelings – as well as gives them the opportunity to be mentally prepared for your input.

Make use of the SBI method

SBI stands for Situation, Behavior, Impact. This method involves describing the specific situation, the behavior observed, and the impact it had. For example:

“During the team meeting yesterday, when you interrupted Jane while she was speaking (situation), it came across as dismissive (behavior) and it prevented her from sharing her ideas (impact).”

Focus on specific behaviors

Feedback should be focused on specific actions, rather than on the person. This allows the receiver to understand what they did well or what needs improvement, without feeling attacked or criticized.

For instance, instead of saying, “You’re always so disorganized and it drives me crazy“, which focuses on the person themselves, you could say:

During yesterday’s team meeting, I noticed that you forgot to bring your notes and it delayed our progress. In the future, it would be helpful if you could make sure to bring all necessary materials to our meetings.

Use a feedback sandwich

This technique involves starting with what the person did well – followed by what they could have done better, and then ending with one last positive reinforcement. Here’s an example:

Your presentation during yesterday’s meeting was very well prepared and delivered with confidence (positive). However, I noticed that you went over the allotted time, which caused us to rush through some important points (constructive). Overall, I think you did a great job and with some adjustments to timing, you could make an even bigger impact in future presentations (positive again).

As you may see, the speaker acknowledges the strengths of the presentation – before highlighting an area for improvement and envisioning future possibilities. This helps to balance out the critique – as well as motivates the recipient to keep up with their performance.

Read more: Leadership Feedback – The Key to Changing for the Better

How to Establish a Feedback Culture

  • Create an environment that promotes safety & communication

Establishing a feedback culture in the workplace begins with implementing strategies that allow for two-way communication. This means creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and safe to provide their input – as well as receive criticism without fear of judgment or repercussions.

One way to do this is by explicitly stating the company’s commitment to fostering an open dialogue between all involved parties. This shows that everyone in the organization is working towards a common goal – and encourages a sense of collaboration among employees.

  • Implement formal processes to gather feedback

It is alo recommended to implement a formal process that allows employees to give feedback on a regular basis. This could include holding weekly meetings, setting up anonymous comment forms, or having anonymous surveys sent out periodically.

Doing this allows managers to stay informed about any issues or problems occurring within their team – while also providing employees with an easy way to share their thoughts and ideas in a confidential manner.

Read more: Soliciting Feedback – Key to a Better Workplace

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, providing effective feedback is a critical skill that can help individuals and organizations achieve their goals. By following the practical tips outlined in this guide, you should be confident in your ability to offer input that is clear, specific, and actionable – while also ensuring that it is received in a constructive and positive manner. With practice and commitment, one should be able to become a skilled feedback provider and help your team or organization achieve greater success.

Other resources you might be interested in:

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