Giving others feedback is critical to help them succeed. It’s also really difficult, both for the giver and the receiver. Here are some pointers on how to do well in both roles.
How to give feedback
- Goal: Provide outside perspective and encourage effective future behaviour.
- Step 1: Permission. Ask the Receiver whether you can give them some feedback. This increases the likelihood they’ll change their behaviour. Honour a “no” response. If it’s clearly important, at least give them the choice for when to receive feedback.
- “Hey, can I give you some feedback?”
- “When would be a good time for me to give you some feedback?”
- Step 2: Behaviour. Tell the Receiver what they did well or what they did that you would like them to change.
- “When you (insert behaviour)…” – focus on behaviour, not character
- Step 3: Consequences. State the impact that the behaviour has had.
- “Here’s what happens: (insert consequences)”
- Step 4: Future. Either ask for a change in behaviour or say thank you for behaviour that you want to encourage. Let the receiver come up with the answer themselves to increase their commitment.
- “How could you change that?”
- “Can you do that differently?”
- Step 5: Validation of who people are and of their value to the organization. Also, acknowledge their openness to feedback. It’s possible to do this naturally without sounding too artificial.
- “It’s great that you took on this assignment. You helped us make rapid progress towards X goal.”
- “Awesome, thanks a lot!”
When to give feedback
- Ideally, give feedback immediately after you notice the behaviour because the memory will be fresh.
- Solve problems early. Don’t wait until there’s a pattern.
- Pause and reflect before giving feedback:
- Are you angry? Are you assuming bad intent? If so, hold off for now.
- Do you want to punish? If so, hold off for now.
- Can you deliver it with a smile on your face?
- Should you ask more clarifying questions first?
How to receive feedback
- Be proactive about soliciting feedback so you know how you’re doing and how you could do better. A simple question you can ask is: “How can I do better?”
- How you respond to feedback determines whether you receive more in the future.
- Take the first fall: The best way to do that besides giving great feedback is volunteering to take some as well.
- Pause and ride the immediate wave of defensiveness.
- Move from “that’s wrong” to “tell me more.” Listen carefully. Ask clarifying questions.
- Thank the person for taking the time to help you. Encourage them to keep doing this in the future.
- If you don’t like the way they give feedback, tell them later in a careful way.
- Cultivate a growth identity to respond better to feedback:
- Love your mistakes. They are your best opportunity to learn and improve.
- Don’t worry about looking good. Worry about achieving your goal.
If you’d like to explore these ideas further, here are a few resources that you’ll find useful:
- What Information Do You Need in Order to Change? – Farnam Street
- The Effective Manager – Mark Horstman
- Nonviolent Communication – Marshall B. Rosenberg
- HBR archive on giving feedback – Harvard Business Review
- Stop Softening Tough Feedback – Harvard Business Review
- How Emotionally Intelligent People Give Negative Feedback – Inc.
- How to Provide Great Feedback When You’re Not In Charge – Farnam Street
- Giving and Receiving Feedback – Max Daniel