How to give good feedback in 4 easy steps
I once tried to explain to a colleague how a content management system worked.
Thanks to a combination of eagerness and caffeine, I talked at the person for too long without pausing to see if they were following along.
I later received feedback from my business mentor that I was too commanding of the conversation; my instructional demonstration I was giving had turned into a lecture.
My mentor encouraged me not to be disheartened, but to take this as an opportunity to adopt her constructive criticism and try again.
The second time around, I implemented her 20-80 principle – you speak 20 per cent of the time and let the other person speak for the remaining 80 per cent.
I learnt that if I’m teaching someone how to do something, it’s best to keep them involved by asking questions and being engaged.
Without my mentor’s feedback, I wouldn’t have learnt a skill I still use today.
Feedback – alongside mentors, parental figures, books and leaders – is one of the best teachers you’ll have.
I’ve worked in companies that value feedback to nurture and grow employees – and I’ve seen it benefit employee empowerment, willingness to try again and encouragement to pay their feedback forward.
Thanks to my mentor, here are four things I’ve learned about the art of giving – and receiving - meaningful feedback.
1: Ask permission
Whether you’re giving positive or negative feedback, asking permission first means you’re giving the other person some control over the conversation. It can help prepare them for what you’re about to say.
2: Determine whether it’s positive or negative feedback
When giving positive feedback, I’ve found it best to keep comments general instead of too specific. If someone’s done something well they probably don’t need further guidance. For example, if someone’s just finished giving a speech, general feedback could be, “You projected your voice really well and it helped keep everyone engaged”.
Constructive feedback should be specific. This makes the area for improvement clear for the other person and gives them an opportunity to improve. For example: “I noticed you didn’t give people enough time to ask any questions before changing topics. More time lets people reflect on your question and helps them better understand what you’re communicating.”
3: Choose your attitude
Having the right attitude to feedback is so important that it cannot be overstated. If someone is giving you feedback, they’re trying to help you. It may be just as hard for them to give it as it may be for you to hear it, so be open minded.
4: Accept, learn, and improve
It’s what you do with the feedback that really matters. If you choose to accept it and know it’s not personal, you can grow professionally. And one day, you may be able to return the favour to someone else.