How to Give Feedback

Oddly enough, the words “Can I give you some feedback” don’t generate the same warm feeling as, “Here is some chocolate cake.” And while the person offering feedback may have the best of intentions, the way the feedback is delivered can result in a positive or negative response. There are ways, however, to offer feedback in a constructive fashion that leads to improvement and growth.

Create Openness
Here’s an interesting statistic – according to a study from Columbia University people only apply feedback 30% of the time.  The key reason they don’t – the person giving the feedback did not create an environment of acceptance and openness.  It pays, therefore, to carefully consider the time and place that the feedback is offered.  Try to avoid giving feedback in front of others.  As a manager, schedule regular check-in meetings with each of your team members.  As a colleague, try asking for some time where the two of you can speak alone.

Tip: Don’t immediately launch into the feedback once the meeting begins.  Try to put the person at ease.

Positive
The ratio of 3:1 is the magic number.  What does this mean?  For someone to feel positively about a relationship, he or she needs a ratio of roughly three positive remarks to one constructive comment. Why is this?

The human brain has a negativity bias i.e. we focus on negative feedback more than positive reinforcement.  This probably worked well when we were running from a T-Rex (right, don’t go out in the open again – that’s a bad idea), but this negativity bias can wreak havoc when it comes to feedback.  Give as much positive reinforcement as you can on a consistent basis and people will be much more receptive to constructive feedback.  Consider, as well, that positive feedback engages the brain’s reward centers, leaving the person much more open to shifting their behavior.

Resource: For tips on how better communication can strengthen your finance team read this blog.

Specific
Be specific in your feedback.  Vague comments like, “You’re not speaking enough during team meetings” are not constructive.  Instead frame your feedback positively with a solution.  “I like the way you drill down into the details.  I would love to hear what you think about (situation a) in our next meeting.”

Be Timely
We learn most effectively when the feedback is offered in a timely fashion.  Don’t wait 3 months down the road when everyone’s memory is cloudy.  Productive feedback is given frequently.

Be Collaborative
If someone is continuously underperforming, it needs to be addressed.  The best way to do so, is by asking for their perspective on the situation.  Then offer your assessment, remembering to couch it in constructive language if possible.  Ideally, you can arrive at a solution collaboratively.  Collaborative solutions increase buy-in.

Resource: For practical tips on how to create a collaborative work environment, read this article from Forbes.

Create Accountability
If it’s a one-time behavior, creating accountability is not as important.  If, however, the behavior is ongoing, then you need to create accountability.  Explain what shift you need to see and ensure that the individual receiving the feedback understands your expectations.  Tell them that you want to help them succeed.  Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss progress.

Key Takeaways
Hal Elrod said, “The more value you add to someone’s life, the more valuable you become to them.”  Giving feedback can create productive change if it’s done in the right way.  Create safety for the recipient.  Make giving and receiving feedback a regular meeting.  Be as positive as possible, and if reasonable, collaborative in your approach to the conversation.  Offer feedback in a timely fashion and create accountability.  By following the steps above, you can offer value to the person receiving feedback and build a more productive relationship.

Your Next Step
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