29th October, 2021 • 4 min
Written by Coran Lui
How to deliver effective feedback
6th March, 2023 •
Do you give effective feedback to your team?
Interestingly, while 65% of managers believe they do, only 28% of individuals reported receiving meaningful feedback at least once a week.
While it’s clear that feedback and constructive dialogue is key to an effective and high-performing team, the way in which we approach feedback situations impacts how that feedback is received and the likelihood of the other person acting on it.
So, it’s critical to do it right.
Picture this: Charlie, a colleague you have recently been working with, has just missed an important project deadline two weeks in a row.
What would be your response to this? (be honest with yourself here)
A. You are worried about how Charlie will take the feedback, so you don’t say anything and assume they will sort it out next week
B. You feel inwardly annoyed but don’t want others to think you’re being insensitive or rude by bringing it up, so you don’t say anything
C. You call Charlie out directly and frankly in a meeting with the rest of the team
D. It feels uncomfortable, but you take them to one side and tell them you’ve noticed this trend and wanted to check in, so you can continue working effectively together
Although it should be clear what the “correct” answer is (it’s D!), all of us have fallen into the other three options in the past.
These four responses summarise the ways in which we tend to respond in a situation like this, and they map onto this model which has been adapted from Kim Scott’s Radical Candour model.
Read on to find out what these responses mean and how we can approach feedback situations in an effective way.
How to share feedback in an effective way
The best way to understand how to frame effective feedback, is to first understand how not to.
What does it mean to be destructively nice?
When we care sincerely, but don’t challenge directly. We do this because we don’t want to offend or hurt someone’s feelings. Being destructively nice comes in many shapes and forms, from sugarcoating negative feedback to staying completely silent – in fact, Kim Scott shares that over 75% of all feedback mistakes fall into this category.
In the Charlie scenario, if you were destructively nice, you just let it go because you want to believe that it won’t happen again. You do nothing and hope they eventually sort it out and the situation resolves itself.
The impact of this is that we miss out on valuable growth opportunities, it’s unlikely the situation will somehow resolve itself and this causes an even bigger problem in the future.
What does it mean to be manipulatively insincere?
This is when we don’t care personally nor challenge directly. We share insincere praise and may criticise them harshly behind their backs, leading to passive-aggressive behaviour.
Going back to the scenario with Charlie, if you were being manipulatively insincere you may not want to seem rude or abrasive by asking them about the missed deadline, so you avoid the topic of conversation and instead feel inwardly annoyed. You might even vent about Charlie to someone else in the team.
The impact of this is that the situation could continue to snowball into something bigger, while creating an environment of distrust.
What does it mean to be brutally honest?
Where we challenge directly but don’t care personally, we fall into delivering positive feedback that doesn’t feel sincere, or negative feedback in an unkind, often humiliating manner.
Here, you might call Charlie out directly and frankly in front of everyone, perhaps during a project catchup, and make sure that the rest of the team is aware of the problem.
Despite the clear feedback shared, the way it is delivered makes Charlie feel underappreciated, defensive or even hostile. We have broken trust and Charlie is unlikely to ask for feedback or support in future.
What does it mean to be compassionately honest?
Where we care personally and challenge others directly. This is where we should all aim to be when delivering feedback. We share motivating constructive and specific feedback that leads to behaviour change.
In the Charlie scenario, you might take them to one side and tell them you’ve noticed this trend, that you wanted to say something and offer any help or guidance so that you could continue working well together.
The impact of this is Charlie is more likely to take the feedback in a constructive, motivating way, trust is strengthened in the team and compassionately honest feedback shared in future is even more likely to be received in a positive way.
Of course, this is still easier said than done – as well as considering how we deliver effective feedback, there are strategies we can use to create a feedback culture and make sharing compassionately honest feedback a habit in the team.
How to build a feedback-driven culture at work
1. Role model and ask for specific feedback
Receiving feedback can be painful, especially if it is about an important skill or something we think we are really good at. Our brains are actually hard-wired to resist feedback, going into fight-or flight mode when it senses potential stressful situations, like a feedback conversation.
Challenge yourself to ask for feedback (both upwards and downwards), and be as specific as possible.
Share a theme here – what do you want to get feedback about? Is it your communication style? Is it the structure of your client proposal?
By role modeling this behaviour, we make it more likely for others to feel comfortable and empowered to do the same.
You can read more about asking for feedback in our blog here.
2. Reward the feedback
Rewarding someone for sharing feedback is just as, if not more important, than asking for feedback.
When we’re being given feedback, we need to show we are receptive to it by actively listening and showing positive body language. This could be through nodding, making eye contact, and not having your arms crossed.
After someone takes the time to give us feedback, we can make it a point to show them we are genuinely grateful for their time and words. A simple thank you can go a long way and act as the foundation for a great feedback-driven culture.
3. Give more positive recognition
On the theme of showing gratefulness and appreciation, this is something that we can also apply to the feedback that we give to others.
Research by Gallup has found that 67% of individuals whose leaders focused on their positive traits and successes were fully engaged in their work, compared to only 31% when negative traits and weaknesses were focused on.
Of course, that’s not to say we should avoid constructive feedback. The goal is to be compassionately honest, and share feedback with individuals in a way that motivates and challenges them to improve.
4. Give it regularly and at the time
When we give feedback in a timely and relevant moment, the other person is in an active learning process, where they can absorb and apply the feedback straight away.
Immediate feedback helps reduce the gap between our current understanding and the desired goal we want to achieve. It becomes more motivating because we are able to build a more tangible understanding of “what good looks like”.
That being said, it’s important to remember that different people will prefer feedback in different ways. They might like feedback right after it happened, or specifically during one to one catch ups. They might prefer to hear feedback over the phone, or read it over a message or email.
How do you find out? Ask them directly!
Feedback can be incredibly powerful if delivered in the right way and lead to motivated individuals who improve, achieve more, and ultimately are happier and more engaged at work.
Everyone in a team can play a role in building a feedback-driven culture by being compassionately honest, asking and giving feedback, and sharing positive recognition with each other on a regular basis.
If you are interested in learning more about how to create a feedback culture within your team, please get in touch.
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