As an employee, manager or freelancer, people will make mistakes – and you will sometimes have to give difficult feedback.
Whether you’re speaking to a subordinate, a superior or a colleague, keep these tips in mind for giving feedback.
Why does feedback matter?
Giving feedback is the only way to ensure behavior will change, and it can help focus others on the most important issues. Many people are motivated or inspired by well-delivered feedback, and will perform at a higher level because of it.
How should I give feedback to others?
Use this five-step model for feedback:
1. Ask for permission to give feedback
You would be surprised how much of a difference this makes. A simple “Hey, do you have a minute for some quick feedback?” can help the receiver of feedback be mentally ready for it, be it positive or negative.
2. State what you observed
Where possible, use specific examples and avoid being judgmental. “You don’t give off a lot of energy in meetings” is not as helpful as “In the meeting with Tina yesterday, I noticed that you were using passive body language.”
3. Explain the impact
Point out the direct impact that resulted from this behavior, again trying to be as specific as possible. Saying, “When you said X, it made me feel upset / I noticed that the customer became more irate” is much more effective than “When you say X, you sound stupid.” It’s much more difficult to argue with “it made me feel,” “I noticed that” or “I think that…”, and using those phrases will keep the feedback session from devolving into a debate.
4. PAUSE and ask for the other person’s reaction
Give them time to think through what you’ve said and react to it.
5. Suggest concrete next steps
Give a small number (we suggest only 1-2) of actionable suggestions that the other person can take in the future, to change this behavior. They will appreciate that you are giving them the first step to improving the situation.
What does good feedback look like?
Try it yourself! Practice giving feedback with a partner, or record yourself and listen to the play-back.
Avoid these common errors that turn feedback into fights:
- Choose one issue at a time! Focusing on too many skills or behaviors at once is confusing and overwhelming.
- Don’t be too critical or focus too heavily on the negative. Feedback should inspire the other person to improve, not make them wallow in where they went wrong. Giving a piece of good feedback with negative feedback makes it easier to swallow.
- At the same time, feedback shouldn’t avoid real problems. If there’s an issue, don’t be afraid to state it.
- Don’t be too vague – use specific examples, and connect those behaviors to impact
- Leave plenty of time for the recipient to ask or answer questions and respond to what you’ve said.
Kathryn Minshew can be followed on Twitter @KMinshew1 (and via PYP @PYPro)