Advice for Giving and Receiving Feedback

November 01, 2017 - DOM BARNARD

Feedback provides a great opportunity to develop skills and identify areas which need improving. We’ve identified key points to think about when both receiving and giving feedback, which can be applied to a wide range of feedback situations.

Feedback is important for a number of reasons, it allows you to:

  • Identify areas which need improving, areas which you might not have realised otherwise
  • Create a continuous learning loop, where you can iterate and improve your skills over time
  • Quantify hard to measure areas such as presentation skills, performance in a team and behaviour
  • Give people an opportunity to ask for help if they are performing badly in an area, this is particularly true when receiving feedback from your manager

Giving and receiving feedback is a powerful process but needs to be handled carefully. Use the following guide to help you get the most out of the feedback sessions.

Business women giving constructive feedback

Guide for giving feedback

If you are giving feedback, it needs to:

1. Be specific

To be useful for development you need clear guidance. Often people say things like “you could be a bit more welcoming”. How does this translate into an action? More specific would be “I would have liked it if you had smiled when you welcomed us”.

2. Give evidence

You will be more likely to change your behaviour if you can identify precise aspects of it. Being reminded of the actual words you said or movements you made will make the feedback more effective. So if your colleague says, “I thought you were a bit aggressive” this is not as clear as “you leant forward and pointed your finger at me when you said ‘I need to see results’ and that was quite aggressive”.

3. Describe any emotional impact

If you are working with a colleague either making a presentation or role-playing a situation, it will be useful for you to know what the impact of your behaviour is on them. “I felt included”, “I felt reassured” and other statements will help you know you are getting the effect you want.

4. Focus on being constructive

When giving feedback you must always balance what you want to say with what you feel will be useful. Restrict your feedback to three positive points and maybe one or two points for development. There are only so many things you can work on at the same time and it can affect your motivation if you receive a list of “negatives”.

For further tips on giving constructive criticism, read this article: How to give Constructive Criticism: 6 Helpful Tips

5. Use ‘I’ statements

Try and give feedback from your perspective. This way you avoid labelling the person and it remains your opinion. Say, “I felt that you rushed the part when you explained how the product is used by customers”, instead of “You rushed how your product is being used by customers”.

6. Prioritise areas to focus on

Adults can only focus on and work on a few concepts at a time. Discuss with the participant if there are areas in particular they want feedback on, such as hesitation words or pace of voice for a presentation. This will help you focus in on those areas when providing feedback.

7. Align with goals

Often the feedback that people give is based on the giver’s personal beliefs or preferences, and yet the most useful feedback starts with an understanding of what their goals and objectives are, for example, why are they giving this presentation? When a feedback giver says “Her jokes were very funny” what they are usually saying is “Her sense of humour matches mine so I enjoy it.” Talk with the participant about their goals to help guide your feedback and give you areas to focus on.

Man getting feedback from his manager

Guide for receiving feedback

If you are receiving feedback, remember:

1. Feedback is impersonal

The feedback given by the observer should be on what they saw in that moment of your behaviour. This is not a comment on you as a person nor is there an implication that you exhibit this behaviour all the time. It is what the observer saw now.

2. Listen and don’t interrupt

Try not to interrupt, contest or explain while you are receiving feedback. Listen with an open mind and make notes of what is said. You may then review and clarify what has been observed. Remember, you may not think you were being evasive, manipulative etc but this may be the effect of your behaviour.

3. Put it into action

You must turn the feedback into positive action on your part. Think about what you will change as a result of the feedback you have received. If possible act on it straight away by trying the same situation or presentation again.

4. Follow up

The whole purpose of feedback is to improve performance. You need to measure whether or not that is happening and then make adjustments as you go. It’s a good ideas to use the same person or group of people to practice with, as they’ll be able to tell you what is working and what needs to be modified. Keep a document of your conversations and discuss changes with them.


Conclusion

Creating feedback that is truly useful requires more care and attention than is typically invested. Like any skill - painting, swimming, learning English - offering feedback requires that we pay attention to and do many things effectively and simultaneously.

In order to give effective feedback, you need to understand how to receive it constructively. Doing this on a regular bases will help you appreciate feedback from the other persons perspective.

When done correctly, feedback is a powerful means of personal development and shouldn’t be a negative or resentful process – remember that the more practice you get the better you will become at it.

Acting on feedback will make future presentations more effective, improve personal development and help with career progression.