16 Sep

How to Give Feedback That Makes a Difference

How to Give Feedback That Makes a Difference

How to Give Feedback

That Makes a Difference

Let’s be honest – giving feedback can be downright awkward. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or come across as overly critical. But providing thoughtful, constructive feedback is a crucial skill for managers, teachers, coaches, and anyone who cares about helping others improve. The key is shifting your mindset to focus on progress over perfection. With the right approach, you can give feedback that motivates, inspires growth, and deepens relationships. This article will walk you through strategies for delivering feedback effectively. You’ll learn how to balance positive reinforcement with constructive criticism, structure your feedback conversations, and follow up in a way that leads to meaningful change. Giving great feedback takes practice, but it’s a skill that’s worth mastering.

Providing feedback is one of the most valuable things you can do for your team. It builds trust and helps people grow. When done right, feedback motivates and inspires. Share feedback often. Don’t save it all up for performance reviews. Regular feedback, especially praise, keeps your team engaged and helps reinforce good habits. Even quick messages like “Great job on that presentation today” or “I appreciate how you handled that difficult client call” go a long way.

Be specific and focus on behaviors. Say exactly what the person did well or needs to improve, and how their actions impacted you or the business. For example, “You did an excellent job facilitating that brainstorming session. Asking open-ended questions and recording all ideas helped the team come up with creative solutions.” Focusing on behaviors and actions, rather than personal attributes, makes feedback feel more constructive. Focus on the future. Help the person understand how to replicate or build on their success going forward. For example, “To improve next time, I recommend starting with an outline and assigning roles to keep everyone on track. You’re great at thinking on your feet, and advance planning will make you even more effective.” This approach is more motivational than just rehashing the past.

Deliver feedback with empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand their perspective. Say something like “I can understand why that was frustrating. You handled it well, but next time feel free to bring that type of situation to me right away.” Your empathy and support will make your feedback more impactful. Giving effective feedback is a skill worth developing. With practice, you can learn to share feedback regularly, specifically, helpfully and with empathy. Your team will appreciate your efforts to help them grow and improve.

Principles for Effective Feedback Giving good feedback is an art form. To do it well, follow these principles mentioned below.

Don’t just say “good job”. Point out exactly what the person did well. For example, say “You did a great job calming that upset client. Your patience and active listening skills were very effective.” Specific praise is more meaningful.

Focus on Behaviors and Actions. Talk about what the person actually did, not your assumptions about their attitudes or personality. For example, say “You missed the last three team meetings. How can we support you in attending going forward?” rather than “You don’t seem committed to this team.” Focusing on behaviors leads to more constructive conversations.

Don’t save up feedback for the annual performance review. Provide feedback as close to the event as possible, so details are fresh in people’s minds. This also allows people to immediately adapt their behaviors, if needed.

Be Balanced and Specific About Improvements

Provide both positive and constructive feedback. A good rule of thumb is the “feedback sandwich”: start with a positive, provide the constructive feedback, and end with another positive. This balanced approach makes people more receptive to hearing what needs to improve.

Don’t just say “you need to improve communication.” Explain specifically what to improve and how. For example, say “You need to improve how you respond to client emails. Aim to reply within 24 hours and be sure to restate the client’s question or concern before providing an answer.” Give the person a tangible action plan. Providing effective feedback is challenging, but following these principles can help you have meaningful conversations that motivate people and drive improvement. Keep practicing – it’s a skill that takes time to develop!

Focus on Observations, Not Interpretations. When giving feedback, stick to objective observations about specific behaviors and actions. Avoid subjective interpretations and judgments. For example, say “You interrupted Tanya three times during the meeting” rather than “You were rude to Tanya.” The former is a neutral observation, while the latter is a judgment.

Be Specific

Provide concrete examples to support your observations. Rather than saying “Your emails have been unclear lately,” say “In the email you sent yesterday about the Smith account, the third paragraph was confusing. I wasn’t sure which deadline and deliverables you were referring to.” Specificity helps the recipient understand exactly what you mean and gives them actionable information.

Describe Impacts

Explain how their behavior specifically impacted you or the team. For example, “We were 15 minutes late to the client meeting because we didn’t have the slides completed, which made us appear unorganized.” This helps them understand why their actions matter and what the consequences were. However, avoid accusations and stick to factual descriptions of events.

Share Your Experience

Speak from your own experience using “I” statements. Say “I felt frustrated when I didn’t receive a response to my last three emails” rather than “You never respond and you’re completely unresponsive.” The former expresses how their actions impacted you personally without judgment of their character or intent. The latter can make them feel attacked and become defensive.

Focusing on objective observations and specific examples in a constructive manner is key to giving feedback that makes a real difference. Sticking to the facts and sharing how their actions impacted you helps ensure your message is heard and your feedback is received openly. The recipient will appreciate your balanced, thoughtful approach. To give feedback that makes a difference, be as specific as possible.

Rather than saying “Good job!” or “I liked your presentation” provide concrete details about what exactly you found effective or impactful.

For example, you might say something like: “The story you shared about your first day on the job was a great way to start. It helped us connect with you and better understand your experience and perspective.” Specific, thoughtful comments like this mean much more than vague praise.

When possible, give examples to illustrate your points. This helps the recipient fully understand your feedback and see concrete ways they can build on their successes or make improvements for next time. For instance, if you want to provide feedback on someone’s public speaking skills, you might say:

You did a great job of making eye contact and engaging with the audience. For example, when you told that story in the middle, you looked directly at the people in the front row, and I could tell it helped keep them focused. My only suggestion would be to slow down a bit —there were a couple of times when you spoke quickly and tripped over your words. Pausing for a few seconds after making an important point, like you did when you asked if anyone had questions, is an effective way to keep yourself from rushing.” Comments like these, with specific praise and actionable suggestions supported by examples, are invaluable for growth and development. They provide a helpful roadmap for improvement that builds confidence rather than tearing it down.

So in summary, when giving feedback, be generous with your specific and thoughtful praise. And when offering constructive criticism, provide concrete examples and suggestions to help your recipient understand precisely what they can work on and the steps they can take to improve. This balanced, compassionate approach will make a true difference.

Provide Solutions and Next Steps

Giving constructive feedback is most useful when you provide practical solutions and clear next steps. Simply pointing out someone’s mistakes or areas for improvement is unhelpful without suggesting how they can do better next time. Have specific examples in mind of what they could do differently. For instance, if you’re giving feedback about a presentation, you might suggest speaking slower, making more eye contact, or using hand gestures to engage the audience. Recommend resources they can refer to for guidance, or offer to coach them through some practice runs.

Set tangible goals and ask open-ended questions

Help set concrete goals they can work towards to strengthen their skills. Rather than a vague directive like “be more engaging”, suggest aiming for three audience interactions per minute of speaking or making eye contact with three people in each part of the room. Small, measurable goals will boost their confidence as they achieve them.

Pose thoughtful questions to stimulate their thinking on the issue, rather than just telling them what they need to improve. Ask what they felt went well and what they would change for next time. Inquire about any obstacles they foresee and how they plan to overcome them. The solutions they generate themselves will be far more meaningful than anything prescribed to them.

Schedule follow-up

The feedback process shouldn’t end with one conversation. Set a timeline to touch base again and evaluate their progress. Even if it’s an informal chat, follow-up meetings show you’re invested in their growth and development. Offer encouragement and support as they implement the recommended changes, and be available to provide any additional advice they need. Providing constructive feedback is a gift. When done with care and compassion, it has the power to help others reach their full potential. Solutions, goals, questions, and follow-up are the tools for transforming feedback into real and lasting change.

Giving feedback that makes a real difference takes intention, care, and thoughtfulness. When done right, it can empower people, strengthen relationships, and lead to meaningful growth. The keys are focusing on the positives, being specific, owning your perspectives, and following up. Feedback is a gift – treat it that way. With some concerted effort, you can learn to provide feedback that uplifts, inspires, and transforms. Who knows what amazing things might unfold when people feel truly seen, valued, and motivated to improve. The opportunity is yours.

Use it wisely!