The best ways to give and receive feedback

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Dictionary: “information about reactions to a person’s performance of a task which is used as a basis for improvement.”

Giving and receiving feedback are valuable life skills and when done in the right way, can be both motivational and beneficial to both parties. So why are most of us so poor at giving it and hesitant and defensive when receiving it?

Unfortunately even the term ‘feedback’ can have a negative connotation for many people, either because of a bad personal experience or through word of mouth. When the boss says “Can I have a word please…?” it can leave us feeling defensive and anxious before even a word is uttered.

When feedback is given constructively, focusing on the performance and not the person, and preferably on a regular basis, then some of the fear is diluted. How strong must you be to have the courage to ask your boss, peers or direct reports for feedback on your performance? Yet that is what should be encouraged in workplaces around the country.

Even if you are prepared to be positive and open minded and listen to the feedback, it can all depend on how effective it is delivered. A few simple techniques can make all the difference:
  • Be specific and use examples to illustrate the point and help remain objective
  • Be immediate to keep it relevant – don’t store examples up and then dump them in one big pile!
  • Offer alternatives in how to deal with the situation or conversation. This ensures the feedback appears more developmental than critical
  • Focus on behaviour and not the person, maintaining the person’s self confidence
Does feedback always have to be focused on improvement? Of course not, but most managers are trained to look out for problems and improve the situation – so they can often miss opportunities to praise staff for doing a good job. Praise is so powerful… all of us like to have our good work acknowledged and a pat on the back is more likely to encourage repeat performance. A great adage to live by is:

“See somebody doing something right, say something about it!”

Encouraging feedback in your business will not only improve individuals’ and the team’s performance, but also maintain good performance.

As a skill, giving feedback needs practice in order to be developed. So even it feels a little awkward at first, persevere… you will reap benefits in a short space of time.

So go and create opportunities to open the lines of communication between you and your team. You will not only see personal development, but will help create a more open, honest and motivated work environment.

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