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People often shy away from giving feedback, especially in the UK where there is a long history of being polite and keeping up appearances. Giving someone feedback can feel like we’re tearing strips off, being unkind, standing on people’s toes. The challenge with polite cultures is that they create the perfect conditions for low performance, toxic work relationships and lots of passive aggression.

Learning to embrace and deliver effective feedback is often key to cultivating learning and growth in organisations.

And this can be learning at an individual, team or organisational level. Offering feedback well takes practice and can be useful for the following;

  • Influence someone – to do something different or change their approach
  • Support someone – offering evidence that you value or support them
  • Recognise and reward effort – people more likely to perform well if you let them know what’s working
  • Improve quality – through clear and timely performance feedback
  • Build and maintain relationships – cultivating more trust, respect and openness
  • Clarify expectations – preventing guesswork or assumptions
  • Manage performance – clear and unambiguous information helps individuals to meet or exceed expectations

In a nutshell, feedback is high value information for both parties involved in the giving and receiving.

It helps us to recognise what’s working and what needs tweaking. It can help to bring light to our blind spots, awareness to our hidden talents, insight to ideas. It’s also a great reality check for ensuring two people with different perspectives can align their understanding of how things are going.

Typically when offering feedback people usually fall into one of four camps

  • Pussy footers – tip toe around it so as not to upset the other person. Feedback falls way short of being useful for either party.
  • Sledge hammers – direct and seems to come out of no where. Feedback smacks the recipient around the mush leaving the recipient wondering what the hell just happened and feedback falls way short of being useful.
  • Avoiders – feedback? what feedback? Everything is just perfect. Feedback is non existent, neither party can develop or enhance ways of working.
  • Honest and respectful – feedback has been well prepared, is appropriate, timely and well delivered. Both parties benefit from the exchange.

Of course being able to receive feedback is just as skilful as being able to offer it. Receiving feedback, especially if it comes as a surprise, can be triggering, feel uncomfortable and create unease for both people involved.

Top tips for giving and receiving effective feedback

  1. Agreement – make sure that you have agreed you will give feedback and about what, to avoid surprises and sledge hammers
  2. Specific – Keep your feedback specific to observable behaviours, and the impact you noticed
  3. Give examples – Having examples really helps both parties to get on the same page
  4. Time and place – feedback can be sensitive so make sure you think about doing it somewhere both parties will feel safe
  5. Openness – stay open to feedback on your feedback. Feedback is a two way street and the recipient may have a different view
  6. Focus on the issue/challenge/behaviour and not the person – if you don’t like someone, that’s your problem, not theirs
  7. Affirm what’s good – feedback isn’t just for what needs improving, it’s also important to reinforce what’s going well
  8. Regularity – feedback should be a standard part of all healthy organisations and happen often so that people can get used to it
  9. Timely – feedback about something which happened six months ago is no use to anyone. Keep your feedback timely.
  10. Approach with kindness – it’s worth asking if the feedback you’re about to give will enable and help the other person or hinder. If it’s the latter, step back and reassess.

So, there it is, our top tips for giving effective feedback. We’ll be writing more blogs around the wonderful topic of feedback in the future as it’s a particular interest to many of our clients. Do keep your eyes peeled for our blog. And if you’d rather not miss out, sign up to our newsletter here.