How to Give Feedback

Learning how to give feedback is one of the most important leadership skills you can develop. The ability to give actionable, constructive feedback – to peers, leaders and subordinates – in a way that they will receive will set you apart as a change agent inside of your organization.

As you grow as a leader or an individual contributor on a team, it is critical to learn when and how to give constructive feedback to peers and/or employees.

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How to Give Constructive Feedback

When thinking through how to give constructive feedback to peers or how to give negative feedback in general, there are a few things you should keep in mind prior to diving into the conversation.

Learning how to give good feedback ensures your words are heard, taken to heart, and most importantly, you ultimately see a manifested behavioral change that lasts.

Constructive feedback is best received when an individual is ready to hear it. It’s best to ask if it is a good time for someone to receive feedback and set up a specific time to have this kind of conversation. Keep in mind that the word “feedback” can send people running, so let them know you have specific thoughts – both on what has been working well and what could be improved.

How to Give Feedback to Employees

Many leaders wonder how to give feedback to employees. The best scenario is when an employee can look back on a conversation and realize they were coached in a fair and actionable fashion.

Here are our top 5 suggestions on how to give good feedback to employees:

  1. Provide feedback in a timely manner.

Once you’ve noticed a trend (the same pattern repeating itself 3+ times), the quicker you can bring a feedback item to the individual’s attention, the better. Providing feedback at this juncture ensures that you are speaking to something that has been repeated, yet still may not be a baked-in habit.

  1. Provide specific praise often.

It is easy to find areas for improvement, but constructive feedback should be paired with positive reinforcement as well. Research studies tell us that it takes 10 positive comments to balance out 1 negative one in our brains – be sure someone leaves the conversation knowing what it is they do well, in addition to where they can improve.

  1. Allow them to provide feedback to you.

Trust is an important part of the feedback exchange. When a counterpart feels like you have his or her best interest at heart, they are far more likely to listen to you and implement changes based on your feedback.

Part of building trust with people involves allowing them to provide you with feedback. Ask for their thoughts on the feedback you gave them and if they have suggestions that may be different than yours.

  1. Don’t save it for the annual review.

Nip issues in the bud and increase the flow of communication year-round by implementing a feedback culture.

For example, when we were at Bain, we took part in 17 intentional feedback sessions in 2 years. These were regular check-ins where areas for improvement were brought up as they were noticed, allowing us to implement changes incrementally as we progressed.

  1. Provide specific examples.

When providing feedback, be very specific about the behavior you are asking to be changed. When receiving feedback, people must be able to see why the change is needed and be able to formulate action steps to accomplish the needed change.

How to Give Feedback – Examples

Providing good feedback involves providing specific examples. For example, if an employee is not participating in meetings, it may be easy to say, “You really aren’t participating in meetings and I would like to see that change.”

A better way to provide constructive feedback would be to say, “I really appreciate what you share when you speak up. I noticed that you don’t share your ideas regularly in meetings, but the team needs them. I would like to hear at least one of those ideas at every meeting.”

Employees often need help understanding how to implement needed changes based on the feedback they receive. Providing specific examples will help them to immediately take action based on the feedback they receive from you.

Learning to Give Feedback – The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Learning how to give constructive feedback takes an understanding of the people you work with. Emotional intelligence is key as you interact and provide feedback to different types of people.

As you build a feedback-oriented culture, you’ll start to see productivity rise, communication become clearer, and people who feel like their professional growth is an organizational priority.

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Filed Under: Consulting skills, Corporate Training