Leaders: The Art of Giving Feedback

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is a tricky thing to master. No matter which position we hold in our workplace, we will need to give feedback to our co-workers at one point or another.

For managers, it is a must skill to have; after all they give performance evaluation to their employees all the time.

But even for non-managerial positions, I feel that professionals should spend some time learning the art of giving feedback. This would benefit them a lot in how they are perceived as leaders.

On Temperature and Tone

When you are giving feedback, it is as much about how you deliver it as it is about the message that you are delivering to the recipient. If the person getting the feedback cannot swallow it, what good is that feedback?

If you don’t deliver it in the right manner, your feedback may be rejected or ignored and will not be taken advantage of.

All the time you spend on trying to give a good feedback will be wasted if you don’t deliver it in the right manner.

Tricks of the Trade

Here are a few techniques that people have found useful:

  • While giving feedback, always have something positive (constructive) to say along with developmental (improvement) points. This seems like an obvious thing, but you will find that many people do not follow this basic rule.
  • Always remember when you are giving feedback, it is not the time to show off your intellectual capabilities or skills. It is the time to acknowledge the person you are giving feedback to and highlight what they have accomplished and what they could improve upon. Make it a conversation about them, what they have done right and what they can do better. It should appear to the other person as a helpful feedback and not a reflection on how smart you are.
  • Some people use the sandwich technique to give feedback. Meaning start with talking about a positive point, throw in a couple of improvement points in between and end with a positive note. It is a well-known technique to provide feedback.
  • I don’t always follow the sandwich technique, but I do start with the positive points and ensure that I have thought through them and deliver them in a heartfelt manner. This makes an emotional connection with the person receiving the feedback. He or she understands that you have understood their effort and what they bring to the table. I then phrase the improvement points in a manner which resonates with the recipient. He or she understands that I am there to help and I am not simply criticizing. If I can, I also offer help to deal with the improvement points.

It is very important to put some thought into the content and the delivery of the feedback. One shouldn’t give feedback simply for the sake of giving it.

So, how good are you at giving feedback? Are you more reactionary, or more thoughtful? And how well do you listen before responding? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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12 Responses

  1. Thanks, Aditi. I really enjoyed your article.

    • Thanks Gloria. I am glad that you enjoyed it.

  2. This is essential!

    While giving feedback, always have something positive (constructive) to say along with developmental (improvement) points. This seems like an obvious thing, but you will find that many people do not follow this basic rule.

    Anyone have principles for doing this well?

  3. Aditi, even though you don’t actually say it, your article is about giving negative feedback. Negative feedback is the only real feedback because it is the only feedback that a person can actually use for improvement. What you call the sandwich technique of giving negative feed back, I call Oreo correction. Using Oreo correction or your sandwich technique diminishes the effectiveness of feedback. There is seldom a need to be cruel when giving feedback but to be effective it must be crystal clear, no hidden agenda or forcing the recipient to try to read between the lines. Tell the person what they need to hear, no more, no less. How can you expect positive results otherwise? See my latest posting for my illustration of “Real Feedback.” http://bit.ly/17F3SZc

    • Jimmy – thanks for reading my post and commenting. My post as the title suggests is not about giving what you call ‘negative feedback’. If it were, I would have titled it that way :) It is about mastering the art of giving useful feedback. On one extreme could be a person who would shy away from giving constructive feedback and on the other extreme is an individual who perhaps because of a bias may deliver harsh feedback. My post was to highlight the fact that a balance in both content and delivery will make the feedback useful to the recipient. Hope that helps.

  4. Aditi,This applys for giving feedback in a critique group as well. Great article.

    • Thanks Sylvia.

  5. Hi Aditi,

    I really liked your article – especially the part about giving feedback in the right manner if you want it to stick.

    I find another useful technique when giving feedback is to invite them to give me feedback before and/or after I’ve asked their permission to give them feedback.

    • Thanks Timothy.

  6. Reblogged this on News & Notes on LEADERSHIP for LEARNING.

  7. Aditi, too often feedback is only considered as an exchange between a boss and a worker. For an everyday occurrence of Real Feedback that took place today, visit my website. http://bit.ly/17F3SZc

  8. I add my points:

    be honest
    give examples
    motivate answers
    accept challenge, not chaos

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