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Guest blog: How to give effective feedback

Passing on positive feedback is a pleasure. But how do you deal with critical feedback? The way you deliver the feedback can either help the recipient to improve or leave them disheartened. How can you ensure that feedback is effective? Let’s begin by defining effective feedback as fact-based, evidenced by examples, clearly communicated, objectively given, capable of being understood and accepted. Here are some tips for delivering effective feedback: 

1.Give critical feedback constructively

Feedback is not always pleasing to hear. However, all feedback can be given constructively. Destructive criticism tends towards personal remarks. With destructive criticism, the recipient walks away not sure of what they are supposed to do other than keep their head down. 

Constructive criticism is very different. The communication is from one adult to another adult. It is specific and fact-based. The aim is to help the recipient think about making beneficial changes to improve future outcomes. It encourages a growth mindset which enables them to rise to the challenge. 

2. Make it about behaviour, not character

You are not passing judgement on someone’s character or values. When passing on feedback, such as from a client, you are commenting on how the recipient behaved and the impact this had on the client as reported by them. Don’t criticise or praise the client for the comments they have made as this will sully the feedback process. This approach works regardless as to whether the feedback is pleasing or critical. 

3. Describe the effect of the behaviour

You are reporting the impact of the action as described by the client. Neither of you has any control over how the client felt. It is what it is. If you have experienced the behaviour, be clear about the effect it had on you. Own your feelings. State plainly how you would like things to be different in future. This approach will make it more likely for the recipient to hear and accept it.

4. Be specific

Make sure you ask for examples when obtaining feedback. Vague comments are unhelpful. It is much easier to hear about an occasion than, for example, ‘X is a poor communicator’. This approach also stimulates the recipient to think about what they might do differently next time. 

5. Make it timely

Putting off giving critical feedback is an easy trap. Days drift into weeks and weeks into months. Perhaps you never pass it on. Delay helps no one. The person who provided the comments will wonder what the point was. The person whose behaviour is causing an issue is ignorant to its effect or doesn’t think it matters. You feel a nagging sense of guilt as you have information that if skilfully imparted could make a difference to at least two lives. Feedback needs to be timely. Just get on with it. 

6. Be well prepared

Plan the feedback process as you would any meaningful communication. Book time and private space. Explain in advance that you have feedback to share. Set aside some time and write up your feedback plan. Think about how you would like to hear the feedback if you were the recipient. Would what you want to say be acceptable to you? Don’t rush the feedback process and take time to listen as well as speak. 

About Beverly Landais

Beverly is a certified coach (ACC). Beverly comes to coaching from a senior business background, including board level. She works with people and teams to enable them to be at their resourceful best. 

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