Over the course of our careers, we will encounter many situations where we’re asked to provide feedback. Some examples include during a performance review, assessing a client presentation, or evaluating a work proposal. In these types of situations, giving feedback in the workplace can be intimidating. And while the term ‘feedback’ often invokes a negative connotation, the reality is that it can also be a positive experience and fuel for growth. As leaders and managers, we must sharpen our skills to give feedback. Not only does it help us grow, but it also ensures our teams do too.
28% of employees report that feedback doesn’t come frequently enough from their managers to help them understand how they can improve. In other words, teams not only need feedback but are seeking it out so they can expand their professional development. Not only that, but when employees are in an environment that encourages feedback, the sharing of ideas, and asking for help, it changes the dynamic of how people work together. Instilling a culture of feedback does take time but it can ultimately lead to a much stronger and more innovative team.
With experience giving feedback in the workplace, as well as being a member of Toastmasters International, a public speaking and leadership club, I can confidently say I would not be the leader and person I am today without having the skills to give and receive feedback. In this post, I share five tips on how to give effective and constructive feedback, particularly for peers and direct reports.
Ask to Provide Feedback First
By asking if you can offer your thoughts and recommendations, it allows the person receiving feedback to mentally prepare and help the information be better received. It also gives the person permission to accept or decline feedback at that particular moment.
One way to do this is using the concept of an “Opt-Yes” question. An “Opt-Yes” question is a “Yes” or “No” question that suggests feedback is coming. An example of this would be, “Do you have a few minutes to talk about the last leadership meeting you hosted?”
17% of employees feel that the feedback they receive is not specific enough. Knowing that, when giving feedback, it’s important to share specifics and not get caught up in generalizations. For example, when providing feedback based on an area of improvement, instead of saying, “I noticed you are consistently late to our leadership meetings,” point to an example. You can say, “The last three leadership meetings we held, I noticed you arrived over five minutes late.” Being too general can be difficult for the person on the receiving end of the feedback. As a result, they may not recognize it as feedback and see it more as an attack.
It’s also a good idea to include the impact the behavior had on you and your work. Doing so helps connect the dots and shows how the feedback can support the bigger picture. In this particular example, the impact could be that the tardiness causes an immediate distraction and forces people to repeat information, thus making the meeting less effective.
Reiterate It’s Your Perspective Only
Feedback is personal and synonymous with perspective. Giving feedback is not the time to speak for others or to make suggestions such as “we all think” or “everyone agrees.” The feedback you are giving is solely your perspective. While it can certainly help the other individual grow, it should be clear that the feedback you are giving is only yours.
Initiate a Dialogue
When giving feedback, make sure to pause to ask for the other’s perspective and what their thoughts are. An example might be, “How do you see this?,” or “What are your thoughts on this?” This will help to create a dialogue and foster a healthy environment for a productive conversation around areas of improvement. There may be multiple factors leading to an individual’s behavior. Understanding this can improve your awareness as a leader and ability to offer effective recommendations and a path forward. Initiating a conversation allows the other person to share their roadblocks and take ownership of the recommendations and respective actions.
Offer Resources & Suggestions
When providing feedback, you should also include suggestions to support the individual’s growth. This doesn’t necessarily require you to become a mentor or mean that you need to be an expert in the area in which you’re giving feedback. However, sharing tips or resources will further support their improvements and overall development. Some examples of this could be suggesting a course, mentor, or help documentation on the related topic. Following the example, you could say something to the effect of, “I’d like to support you in growing in this area. If this is related to time management, we can look at time management courses or resources. If it is related to back-to-back consecutive meetings, we can look at adjusting the time of the leadership meeting. Let’s set up a time to review this further.”
These tips are meant to be a guide when giving feedback, whether in the workplace or in your personal life. It is important to also note that providing feedback is not about perfection and we will not always deliver it flawlessly. Similarly, the recipient may not always accept your feedback or feel compelled to put it into action. Giving feedback is a learning experience in itself, and it can take time to be comfortable and confident in it. With practice and time though, it will get easier. Soon enough, you’ll be a pro!
Randi is the Founder of sustainable apparel brand, Suite Stitch, which integrates design and social responsibility and provides versatile professional wear women can feel confident in. Her work in corporate social responsibility, volunteering with nonprofits, and participating in leadership clubs have instilled a passion for building and sharing career and leadership skills. Suite Stitch features a community of go-getters and world changers, where Randi shares content on all things career, sustainability, and style on the blog.