THURSDAY THOUGHTS! - Giving and Receiving Feedback - Part 1

Posted by | November 29, 2012 | Thursday Thoughts | No Comments

There is an art to both giving and receiving feedback.  Get it wrong, either way, and you are left with a problem one way or the other.  Take care and do it right and it can be an enriching experience for both parties.  So how come so many folk are poor at both?  How difficult can it be?  What does it involve? This week we look at:

“How can you improve the way you give feedback?”

First and foremost, feedback is NOT disapproval, criticism or a personal attack.  It should be given for improvement purposes.  It should be both constructive and consistent, offered by someone in an informed position, and then it can be useful.  Therefore, it should be focussed on those things that you do which impact on others and goes to the route of your personal effectiveness in this respect. I don’t know one single soul who wouldn’t find critical feedback difficult to receive.  It’s hard to maintain a non-defensive and open attitude, as the implication is that we are flawed or wrong.  So there are various things you can do with feedback, however it is delivered:

  1. accept it, and act upon it;
  2. refuse to accept it and bin it; or
  3. hear it and file it for a later date.

Whatever we choose to do with it, we all have the right to expect it to be given in a respectful and supportive manner.  So lets look at a very quick check list to remind us what Giving Feedback should look like in an ideal world.

The more immediate the feedback, the more helpful it will be

  • Be descriptive rather than judgemental: accurate, simple, clear, vivid and specific
  • Direct praise or criticism towards performance in behavioural terms i.e. to what the person did rather than who they are
  • Be supportive, not authoritarian or dogmatic – encourage the receiver to contribute their view from their perspective
  • Be fair and reasonable, supporting judgements with evidence from observations
  • Be positive as well as negative – create balance
  • Offer constructive criticism only for actions which can be changed, and are related to well understood and accepted criteria
  • Don’t compare the person’s behaviour with that of others – ever!</li> <li>Restrict feedback to what can be absorbed and understood at one time
  • Do not apologise for giving it when it is made in good faith and supported by evidence.

This checklist is much more helpful and effective in situations characterised by rapport between the parties involved.  It is underpinned by a skill in selecting and phrasing appropriate statements and questions.  So using the right kind of questions is vitally important in making this a successful experience for both parties.  Those questions shouldn’t make the recipient feel under pressure so open questions are the best.  For example:

  • To what extent does this …. ?
  • Explain to me how …. ?
  • Tell me about …. ?
  • Describe to me how … ?
  • Can you tell me why … ?
  • To what do you attribute …. ?
  • What importance does this have in relation to … ?

So from this, we can easily determine what a GOOD example of giving feedback would look like.  It would look a little like this:

  • Attuned : contextualised, non-aggressive, focusing on improvement of action not personality
  • Insightful  : focussed on behaviour rather than personality – unemotional
  • Investment  : meets the growth needs of the other person – don’t overload
  • Direct : clearly stated with no ambiguity
  • Well Judged : delivered with sensitivity and empathy, avoiding insult or being demeaning
  • Grounded : Based on examples and supported by listening
  • Well timed : Given quickly after the prompting event, or at the best possible next opportunity
  • Feeling : Given thoughtfully, with total regard for positive consequences. Delivered in a non-threatening and encouraging manner.

I have an easy way to remember this, it being my responsibility at the end of the day, by the saying:

All I Invest Does Jolly Good Things Forever.    Let me know how you get on practicing this, I’m all ears – good and bad!

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Sharon Davidson
Organisational development professional specialising in personal, team and whole organisation improvement. Full range of OD tools and techniques available including: Belbin team role analysis; learning style inventories; 360 degree feedback; cultural assessments; personality psychometrics; strategic planning and workshop facilitation. (This list is not exhaustive!)

Improvement is everyone's concern: +44 1550 720902 will start that process today.

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  • Peggy Edwards says:

    Having been on the receiving of both good and bad feedback these really make sense. When done well even a bottom-kicking party can leave the recipient with a positive sense on what should happen going forward not just how bad the past has been.

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