How to effectively give feedback

How to effectively give feedback


Giving feedback to someone is an opportunity to either build or erode trust in the relationship. If you deliver the feedback with care, the level of trust in your relationship can leap forward. Mishandle the opportunity and you can expect to lose trust and confidence in your leadership. Using re-directive statements is the best way to adjust your staff’s behaviour quickly, and reinforcement statements keep desired behaviours consistent.


Reinforcing feedback

  • Stresses ownership, focuses on the specific behaviour you want to be repeated and allows the member of staff to see the full impact of their behaviour.

Redirecting feedback

  • Avoids blame, focuses on specific behaviour you want to adjust/correct and allows the member of staff to see the full impact of their behaviour. Questions should be asked to probe two-way communication.

Having been on both sides of the conversation, giving feedback and receiving it, I know it can be awkward and uncomfortable. However, I’ve learnt that people not only need to hear the truth about their performance, they deserve it. The key to giving feedback that builds trust rather than destroying it is to have a plan in place and a process to follow. You want people to leave the feedback discussion thinking about how they can improve, not focused on how you handled the discussion or made them feel.

Before giving feedback:

  1. Assess the quality of your relationship – If the level of trust is low, work on building it. If there has been a specific breach of trust, work on healing the relationship before giving feedback. If the feedback receiver doesn’t trust and respect you, your message will be perceived as “you’re out to get them.”

  2. Diagnose the situation and clarify your motives – Clarifying your motive for giving feedback, and the results you want to achieve will help you give the right kind of feedback. Be clear on the outcome you’re trying to achieve, otherwise, your feedback will be ineffective.

  3. Make sure there is/was clear agreements about goals, roles, and expectations – Did you fulfil your leadership obligations by setting the person up for success with a clear goal? If circumstances beyond the employee’s control have changed to inhibit goal achievement, work on removing those obstacles, revisit the goal, or engage in problem-solving.

Feedback Guidelines:

  1. Give feedback on behaviours that can be changed, not on traits or personality – Behaviour is something you can see someone doing or hear someone saying. Being specific about the behaviours the person needs to use will give the receiver a clear picture of what he/she needs to do differently.

  2. Be specific and descriptive; don’t generalise – Because giving feedback can be uncomfortable and awkward, it’s easy to soft pedal it or beat around the bush. Provide facts, not opinions or judgements.

  3. Be timely – Ideally, feedback should be delivered as close as possible to the time of the exhibited behaviour. Don’t save up negative feedback for a quarterly or yearly performance review. Blasting someone with negative feedback months after is leadership malpractice.

  4. Control the context – Choose a neutral and comfortable setting, make sure you have plenty of time for the discussion, be calm, and pay attention to your body language and that of the receiver. Find the right time and place to deliver the feedback and the receiver will be more receptive to your message.

  5. Make it relevant and about moving forward – Dwelling on past behaviour that isn’t likely to recur erodes trust and damages the relationship. Keep the feedback focused on current events and problem-solving strategies or action plans to improve performance. Staying forward-focused also makes the conversation more positive in nature because you’re looking ahead to how things can be better, not looking back on how bad they’ve been.

And remember: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. If your intention for sharing feedback is positive, then this will show in your own body language and voice tone.

Vinh Ly