How to Give Effective Feedback to Anyone

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Feedback is not only a "gift" - I honestly hate this analogy - but it is a good conversation. Giving effective feedback comes down to being an effective communicator. Learning how to give effective feedback will be imperative for your long term career success but this skill can be developed like everything else. Done right, effective feedback should be seen as a tool to help you and others grow and develop into a better person.

But most people struggle with giving feedback both upwards, to managers, and even to our peers. I believe the fear or worry associated around feedback comes because most people have received feedback in the wrong way.

You know you are receiving back feedback when:

  1. You receive feedback weeks or even month later usually only during quarterly reviews

  2. You get feedback that is vague and doesn't later up to given tasks or objectives.

  3. You feel the feedback discussion is not a conversation but a directive

  4. You only received negative feedback

  5. You don't feel comfortable to provide your thoughts

If you feel this way about any feedback session you've had then you are not alone. Most managers are not trained to give effective feedback. I love how the Harvard Business Review puts it.

Giving feedback to your employees, particularly when their performances fall short of expectations, is one of the most critical roles you play as a manager.

But unfortunately, most manager and people, in general, aren't properly trained to give feedback. Think about the last time you had to give someone "bad news" or have a difficult conversation with a friend or family member. More than likely it did not go well. Feedback is beneficial to help grow and develop relationships but if it is not done correctly then issues tend to be unresolved. At work, delivering effective feedback will help you grow and develop in your field as well as become a better leader. You won't know what you are doing wrong or well without giving and receiving effective feedback.

There are many rules of thumb on how to give effective feedback. You have probably heard of the "sandwich model." But we are not kids and don't need to add fluff to give feedback. Feedback sound just be another conversation, nothing more nothing less.

At work, you will find that great managers support and don't talk down to others whether on their team or not. And these managers are honest and real in how they communicate and lead their team. When giving feedback steer clear from backhanded comments or defensive responses. Be open and honest in the conversation. Feedback doesn't need to be scary. Effective feedback follows these simple steps.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Be timely

The most effective feedback is given in a timely matter. Don't wait weeks or even months to give someone feedback. For one, you and the recipient will likely not remember the details and two the recipient will feel blindsided by delayed feedback. Make sure the feedback is given in a timely manner to quickly find a solution to work towards. Don't let the issue linger. The worse thing to do is fester or dwell on the problem without actively working to create an actionable plan to solve it for you or the other person. No sweeping under the rug. Attack the issue at hand.

Be Prepared

Come prepared to the meeting when you want to give feedback. Think about the overall message you want to convey and make sure you have specific examples that ladder up to a concise theme. Preparation helps in three key areas.

  1. It helps you map out exactly what you want to say. This gives you the changes to practice or even write out your key points in a clear method

  2. It helps you understand when to say the feedback. When is the right time to deliver this feedback?

  3. It helps you dive into why are you giving the feedback. Are you working to help develop the other person? Do you want to fix the relationship? What is the purpose of this meeting?

Spending adequate time preparing helps you build a game plan to give and receive effective feedback. Feedback can be a great tool to build trust and solid relationships when done right, so take the time to prepare.

Be Specific and Honest

Receiving feedback can be very frustrating when the details aren't clear and the goal isn't specified. Have you ever left a conversation with someone and thought "what just happened?" Forget the sandwich method and just be honest and clear when giving feedback. Outline the key areas of opportunity or strength (positive feedback is always welcome as well). Provide examples that help support the feedback. If your feedback is done in a timely manner, then the recipient should easily remember the given action/meeting/event etc.

In general, feedback is best received when it is specific, honest and clear. We know everyone has an attention span of a goldfish so be straight to the point. Go in conversation with a key message and leave with key next steps. Envision what a good outcome will be and work towards this ideal. The conversation won't go entirely as you expect but at least you have guardrails or expectations of success. Eliminate the swirl or circular conversation and get directly to the point. Trust me it will benefit you both.

Be Constructive

I find that most managers and people struggle with being constructive when giving feedback. Feedback often tends to get personal and this is when the conversations go sideways. Feedback should never feel like a personal attack. Constructive feedback focuses on the situation or action at hand and not the person. Shift the conversation to the action, not the person. For example, you and a teammate had a presentation and they were not properly prepared. Instead of saying "you are not prepared for our team presentation.' You would shift the conversation to the presentation. "The presentation requires preparation as some of the content is difficult to explain."

See how you can switch the conversation from the person to the issue at hand - future presentation. Watch where you direct your feedback. When the feedback focuses on the personal individual the harder it is to have a balanced conversation. Sometimes it is hard to differentiation the problem from the person. An easy way to help is to think about switching the pronouns from "you" to "it" in your mind. This helps me every time.

Be Positive When Needed

Negative is the first thing you think about when you hear the word feedback. But not all feed has to be negative. Don't just focus on negative aspects when giving feedback. In fact, the entire conversation could be focused solely on positive feedback. Sometimes positive feedback is more impactful and helpful for personal development than negative feedback. Spending a bit of time uplifting a coworker, manager, friend or whoever needs to hear it can go a long way.

Not only should you add positive feedback into your conversations but add it more than often. Find a good balance on when to deliver positive feedback with "negative" feedback. There is a point when excess positive feedback becomes mute.

The only way to get better at giving effective feedback is practice. There isn't a magical course you can take. You can practice with your mentor. We wrote about the benefits of having a mentor, here. Don't be afraid to leverage them.

Your conversation should be a feedback loop flowing both ways for each person's development. You know feedback has been effective when both of you leave the conversation feeling good and actionable next steps are clearly outlined. Following these simple feedback steps will come in handy anytime you have to give feedback. But know everyone has their own style so adjust and learn what works best for you.

About the Author:

Grace Kasozi is the Founder of Kasozi Associates a platform dedicated to connecting women professional to women life, business, and career coaches to help close the gap. Grace has over 10 years of experience building well-known brands. She holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota and is currently a Global Brand Manager at large midwest CPG. She spends her free time traveling the world with her husband and 2-year-old son.

A platform designed to connect women professionals with women career coaches to advance their career or business journey.

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