Here’s How to Give Better Feedback

As part of the Accelerator program at Atomic Object, we read the book “Thanks For the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well “by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heed. The book focused on different types of feedback, figuring out which type you need at any given moment, and how to use that feedback to grow. I found the points in this book valuable, but it also got me thinking about the flip side. In order to grow from feedback, it has to be meaningful. As consultants and mentors, it’s important to know how to give constructive feedback.

The Importance of Giving Good Feedback

Receiving feedback can allow a person to develop and hone their self-awareness. By recognizing and understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you’re able to grow. Additionally, constructive, thoughtful feedback can help you gain new perspectives. You can gain insights that you may not have considered before, and this can nurture creativity and critical thinking.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to develop a plan to improve your performance.  Feedback can be a valuable learning tool that will leave you better equipped to handle future challenges. And finally, giving good, constructive feedback can help build up trust and communication. Overall, feedback proves that you are committed to the growth and success of your team, the project, or an individual.

Tips For Giving Quality Feedback

Start with a positive.

Criticism can be awkward and sometimes hard to hear. Starting on a positive note softens the blow of negative feedback. We all like compliments! So starting with something positive makes it easier for us to accept criticism. When a person feels recognized for the work they’ve been doing well, it can motivate them to try harder in areas where they can improve.

Be specific.

When giving feedback, it’s important to be clear and concise. Avoiding broad generalizations will circumvent any misunderstandings. Instead, provide context on the impact of their behavior so they understand why the issue is important. Try to focus on a specific behavior using concrete examples. Don’t just say, “Good job!” Be specific about what they did well. Specificity will enable an individual to pinpoint exactly where they need to improve.

Focus on actions.

Focusing on personality traits will cause the person receiving feedback to feel attacked. When we are in defense mode, there’s a low chance the feedback will actually sink in. It may be dismissed altogether! Because of this, it’s important to refrain from making feedback too personal. Instead of using statements like “You are”, try using “When you do this.” Stick to the facts and don’t make assumptions. Use language that is objective and factual. The point is to help someone improve, not to tear them down.

Work together.

Pointing out mistakes without offering a solution is frustrating and unhelpful. Come to the feedback session with suggestions on how to improve, and be open to planning out ways to implement them. By collaborating, you will ensure that this plan is feasible and achievable.

You can use predefined methods to plan out goals. One method you may have heard of is SMART goals. This acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. There are a plethora of methods available, all with their own pros and cons. Kelly Daniels explains SMART vs. aspirational goals in her article Be Smart About Your SMART Goals (And When Not to Use Them).

Be empathetic.

You don’t want to be too harsh when giving feedback. Put yourself in their shoes and offer yours in a compassionate way. This will help them feel understood and supported. Show that you value and respect their opinion by asking for their perspective and input. Be sure to listen to any thoughts, concerns, or questions they may have.

Follow up.

Once you’ve given the feedback, don’t just forget about it. Follow up! This can be as easy as celebrating milestones. Doing this helps build momentum and keeps them on the path to follow through with improvements. Schedule a follow-up meeting where you can discuss progress and any challenges that might have come up. If challenges do arise, provide additional resources. This could be in the form of coaching, tools, or information. Offer feedback on their progress, acknowledge successes, and be available for questions throughout the process.

Good Feedback — A Win-Win

Giving feedback can be an uncomfortable endeavor, and the way we deliver it impacts how effective it is. Feedback is not just give-it-and-forget-it. It’s a continuous process and requires ongoing communication. Providing feedback that is helpful, actionable, and respectful is a win for everyone involved.


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