Getting Better at Delivering Feedback

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By Robert P. Hewes, PhD
October 22, 2019
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Feedback, now there is a capability we need to get better at doing. And, in two directions. As leaders and managers, we should be good at both delivering and receiving feedback.

Getting better at feedback matters – research shows people don’t get enough feedback and they certainly do not get enough positive feedback. This is one of those capabilities that many of us avoid or delay. Unfortunately, that rarely helps!

Delivering regular feedback well makes a difference in performance and results. It lets people know they are on or off track. When they are off they can adjust.

We should make delivering and hearing feedback much easier so that it happens more often and is less of a “big deal.”

5 steps to improve your feedback capability

  1. Prepare Don’t walk into a feedback discussion cold. Figure out what you need to say and discuss. Gather your thoughts and of course any information, notes, or data you need. Practice for a bit. Prep pays off and is easy to skip. Don’t skip it.
  2. Be specific and timely When you give feedback you need to keep it specific. And, it must be timely. Waiting months to give feedback is a no-no, and, quite frankly, not fair. Making it specific is a good test during your prep. It should describe specific behaviors.
  3. Set the Environment Remember to set the environment when giving feedback. Make it a good one. If you are rushed, get interrupted, or are impatient, you are setting a bad environment.
  4. Actively listen Many of us ask some good questions and then forget to listen to the other party’s response. So, when it’s appropriate, don’t forget to actively listen – engage with the other party on what they are experiencing. You may just learn something that can help improve things. This is often an over looked part of feedback.
  5. Practice Bring it all together with practice. In fact, make it practice, practice, practice. Feedback is a capability that gets easier with lots of practice. It is also one of the capabilities that is much harder if you don’t use it regularly. Find a couple of easy places to give some feedback each week. Do a quick after-action-review – what went well and what to improve next time. Work that into your prep.

By putting these ideas in place and practicing giving feedback, your ability to deliver and, ultimately, receive feedback will get easier and be more effective.

Finally, recognize where people are doing things well! This week, find two instances where you can give some good positive feedback to a colleague or employee. Things to comment on can be as simple as “thank you for taking the time to triple check the numbers” or “you did a great job explaining the process in today’s staff meeting.” They are in front of you if you look.

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