The Art of Feedback

17 November, 2017

Feedback is tough. Just ask anyone who has ever given or received it. It’s not fun to be on either end of the feedback discussion; however, it’s necessary. Without honest feedback we would seriously thwart our efforts to maximize our individual potential. We would never really know where we, or our employees, stand against our expectations and goals.

What are the steps to delivering effective feedback?

  • Check yourself. Make sure that your motive is to help the person better understand the impact of their behavior. Sometimes we are motivated by a less worthy desire. Sometimes we want to prove what we know, point out another’s inadequacies, judge or even punish them. If you really want to help the person, proceed to the next steps. If not, check your motives and hold your tongue.
  • Ask for permission. Jumping into feedback without permission is likely to ensure the feedback is discarded as unsolicited advice. If you want your feedback to be heard, start by asking if they are interested in your feedback.
  • Admit your own hesitancy or discomfort. Your vulnerability may make it easier to for the recipient to be open to hearing your message.
  • Be specific. Offering vague feedback that is hidden among a bunch of conversational filler is almost a sure-fire way to make certain that it isn’t heard. Get real and share your feedback and observations. Make sure that you can give specific examples and focus on describable behaviors.
  • Be compassionate. Delivering even the mildest feedback can make a person feel exposed and defensive. Have empathy for the person you are giving feedback. Help to maintain their dignity and show compassion for how difficult it is to hear about one’s shortcomings.
  • Be encouraging. Help the person see how they can use the feedback to grow and develop.
  • Offer to help. Ask how you can give support moving forward. Offering to be a partner in their success will show that you are there to help, not to criticize.

The next time you are in the position to deliver feedback to someone, I hope these steps help. When your heart is right, your feedback can provide valuable insight. Any real effort to grow and develop requires that we periodically take stock of our current state. Encourage leaders to create a culture of open communication where members of the team feel valued and can contribute fully to the mission of the organization.

At Dorsey Management Consulting, we help our clients learn new skills and expand their leadership capacity to better lead their organizations into the future. We help leadership teams learn how to work together more effectively and efficiently, enabling them to make sound and timely decisions in pursuit of achieving greater success. We partner with our clients to design and build succession plans and develop their future leaders. We coach executives to achieve higher self-awareness and be more effective leaders of people. We do this in service of learning, helping each of our clients become better versions of themselves and achieving organizational goals.