Feedback is integral to our improvement and growth in any area – whether in personal or professional life. Even for someone with a high work ethics who is already producing quality results, feedback provides the much-needed outsider’s perspective in identifying any areas that need attention and finding the best solutions for them.
I would like to share here 5 tips for making sure that you give effective feedback.
- Feedback should be timely. Whether you are giving to an employee at work or even your child at home – offer your feedback as closely after the event took place as possible. While things are fresh on everyone’s mind and both parties have the same recollection of what took place, is the best time to discuss how things went and how the performance can be improved further. Sometimes, people see an area of concern but keep postponing the “difficult conversation” hoping that the problem will go away. But what if it doesn’t. I believe it’s best to provide an opportunity to rectify any issues before it grows out of proportion.
- Be specific with your comments. Nothing is worse than a blanket statement, generalized to the extent that it makes it hard for the receiver to draw any useful conclusions on how they can make the improvements. Always leave people with specific pointers that they can use and benefit from. It’s very empowering for people to feel that there are small steps they can take now towards big improvements down the road.
- Remember the positive feedback too. Often as managers, mentors or even parents, we focus on pointing out the opportunities for improvement, which, no matter how we frame it, is in fact, negative feedback. Given with the best intentions in mind, this feedback can prove very useful. But receiving only negative feedback can make anyone feel defensive by implying that they “never get anything right”. So don’t overlook the importance of positive reinforcement. It’s important for people to know how they can improve their performance it’s very useful to know what they are doing well too. It creates a nice balance, helps build a positive outlook as well.
- Stay away from giving unsolicited feedback. If you are a manager in a workplace responsible for your employees’ performance evaluations and monitoring – giving feedback – solicited or not – is a big part of what you do for a living. In most of the other situations, it’s best to abstain from the temptation of providing unsolicited feedback. Someone who is not open to any criticism, no matter how thoughtful and well-put, will not take it well. And any potential benefits will be outweighed by the awkwardness created by them. I myself find especially hard to follow this tip around teenagers, when you feel like that there is so much they could be learning and improving on. But experience shows that advice is best taken when the person is ready for it and asks for it. Unsolicited and especially plentiful advice is just not going to be valued or given the credit it may otherwise deserve.
- Learn from the Toastmaster’s way of giving feedback. Both receiving and giving feedback is quite a delicate process. So it’s always a good to look for ways to improve the way you provide feedback or listen to it. Toastmasters puts great emphasis on the fact that everybody, regardless of their role and level of experience, needs feedback for their growth and improvement. Evaluations are an integral part of the process and are provided for every prepared speech as well as for every leadership type role you take in the club. The evaluators themselves are immediately evaluated too – so that they can learn what stood out and what work needs to be done to make the evaluations even more effective.
On a final note, the purpose of giving feedback is not to attempt to alter someone’s entire personality. It’s more to provide them with a framework where they can possibly adjust behavior or certain actions in a safe environment. And if you are the one receiving the feedback, first and foremost, appreciate the fact that no one enjoys difficult conversations. You never know, the speaker may have forced themselves out of their comfort zone and put themselves on the spot in order to help you to grow and develop personally or professionally.