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When you think about it, giving feedback sounds pretty simple. You open your mouth and give someone the information you feel they need about something they did. It doesn't sound too complex but in fact in can be. To be honest, what's easy is to give someone feedback and have them walk away confused or even angry. If you want to be sure they hear you, understand you, and feel properly motivated to use your feedback, there are several guidelines you'll want to follow. First, I want you to remember that all useful feedback is specific, not general.
It's common to frame things using general words because we often feel that to be very specific is too personal, and might cause tension. That's not true if you're positive in your delivery. If you want them to hear you, be specific. Don't say, I think you can run meetings more efficiently. When you really mean, I feel that you allow your agenda to be sidetracked by others. The more specific your feedback, the more it will be understood and seriously considered. Next, strive to make all feedback descriptive and helpful, not evaluative and punitive.
Often in haste, we simply serve up quick evaluations that sound like punitive statements, even when we didn't intend to be negative. If you allow yourself to be more conscious and intentional with feedback, you can then make the choice to be objective and descriptive while trying to offer helpful advice as well. This way, you move past simple evaluation towards helping and coaching. Great feedback is also personally owned. You must own the fact that you're the source of the feedback, not someone else who isn't present.
Don't offer feedback and then suggest that's how the team feels about the issue, or that's how the committee feels, or that's the way management sees it. If a group is responsible for the feedback, you can say so. But to the extent it's your feedback? Show respect and earn respect by owning the feedback. For example, say, this is how I see it. Or, my view is that. That's what it means to own your statements. It's also true that when possible, you want feedback to address issues, not people.
Focus on the work in question, your observations and thoughts about how to change and improve. For example, talk about the report the boss needs, and how it can include additional analysis, instead of talking about how Bob wrote a really incomplete report. The more we focus on the issues instead of the people, the more your target will clearly hear you. Next, remember to give people the right amount of feedback at the right time. The right amount will vary for each person, so you have to get to know them to understand how much they can typically take.
In addition, think about when it's best to speak with them. In general, the best time will be on the fly or as soon as possible. But be smart, and look at them. Are they busy? Particularly stressed out? Or otherwise not in a position to receive feedback successfully? If so, wait a little while. Until they seem more free and clear-headed. Then speak with them. Another useful reminder is that great feedback is best defined as a dialogue. As opposed to you simply dictating. For example, consider leading with a question, such as so, how do you feel the meeting went today? This allows them to open up and share their thoughts, thoughts that will help you refine your feedback right there on the fly.
You'll need to offer your observations and advise, but they're best delivered as part of a two-way conversation. These last two are short but vital. First, good feedback is checked, not unchecked. That simply means that before your conversation is over, you want to inquire about what they heard, give them a chance to show you, in their own words, that the message was received. Second, effective feedback is followed up, not forgotten. If you feel that your feedback message is important enough to deliver, then it's important enough, at least once or twice, to follow-up, whether that's in person, by email, or whatever channel you'd normally use.
When you use the word feedback, it sounds simple and understandable. Well, with practice, it can be simple, but thoughtful practice is needed. Start with the guidelines we've just discussed so that your feedback can be heard, appreciated, and acted on.
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