Receiving feedback is essential if we want to improve our own performance.
Giving feedback is essential if we care about helping others get better.
But sometimes despite our best intentions, we fail to hit the mark in giving feedback that’s helpful.
Here is a 5-step system for giving POWERFUL and MEANINGFUL feedback:
1. Be clear on your intent
Why are you giving feedback in the first place? Is it about you or is it about the other person? State your intent upfront.
2. Seek permission
Don’t assume someone is open to receiving feedback and/or the timing is right from their perspective.
Therefore, ask them:
- Are you open to receiving feedback?
- When would be a good time?
3. Focus on what’s good/great first
When we hear the word “feedback”, we typically start thinking about the negatives. But that shouldn’t be the case. There are many situations where you only want to focus on what was good/great/positive about what you saw/observed. At the very least, when you want to provide feedback on what was great and what could be better, focus on the positives first.
4. Be very specific
“You were great. That was fantastic. I loved it. You could do better – etc”. These are well intentioned statements, but are not very helpful because they are not specific enough. What is more helpful is bringing to the other person’s consciousness, the specific elements of their behaviour that made it “great/fantastic/not that good” etc.
For example, consider a scenario where you are giving feedback to a colleague you observed speaking to a room with 100 people.
The generic and less helpful feedback to this colleague could be along the lines of:
- You spoke really well and had good engagement with the audience. A few things could have been slightly better, but overall it was really good.
The precise and more powerful feedback to this colleague might be along the lines of :
- I really liked how you moved around the stage, covering all parts of the room and how you maintained your stance whilst making eye contact with different people across the room. I also connected with the open ended questions you asked – they were both thought provoking and enabled the audience to feel more involved. One thing that could have been better was that after you asked the question, if you could have held the silence for an extra couple of seconds, as it might have driven the message deeper.
The latter provides concrete, precise feedback that your colleague can take away and improve on.
Great feedback is one that is precise in pin-pointing what elements of BEHAVIOUR made something good/not as good.
5. Let go
Finally, relinquish your expectations about what someone might do with the feedback you’ve given them. That is up to them to decide.