When asked why feedback is important, I received varied answers. A few of the responses include, “It provides an opportunity to learn from mistakes.”, “Feedback helps people stay on track.” and “Feedback provides clarification.” The goal of most leaders is to develop a feedback-culture in which people are comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
One of the best definitions of feedback is provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Here, feedback is defined as the “evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process.” Using this definition, we should all want to give and receive feedback with the goal of improvement. The problem occurs when people use feedback as a way to find fault with others.
Feedback should not be something that is only thought about once a year, during annual reviews, but given and received frequently. The problem is that many do not know how to give or receive feedback.
An effective method of providing feedback is by following the steps below:
- Be Positive – Whenever possible, start with identifying something the person is doing well.
- Don’t Make It Personal – Focus on behavior, not the person. Keep emotions in check when providing feedback on poor performance.
- Choose an Appropriate Time – Feedback should occur away from others and as close to the time of the action as possible.
- Be Specific – Provide examples when providing feedback. Telling someone they did a good job but not providing specifics is not useful feedback. The same is true when trying to provide feedback on poor performance.
- Include the Recipient – Ask the recipient if there are any questions. Engage in dialogue, if needed.
- Follow-up – When feedback includes poor performance, follow-up and when actions are correct, reinforce the positive behavior.
When you’re on the receiving end of feedback, it can be difficult as your task is to hear and accept the feedback. You should be listening to understand. As the recipient of feedback, you should:
- Listen – Listen to the feedback without interruption. There will be time later to ask questions if clarification is needed.
- Check Your Responses – Make sure you are not using body language to put up emotional barriers.
- Be Open – No one is perfect. If you receive feedback with this attitude, you will be more receptive.
- Understand the Feedback – Make sure you understand what is being said to you.
- Reflect – Thoughtfully reflect on the feedback and decide on what action should be taken.
Everyone needs feedback to grow. Feedback is a gift of oneself to another. It is a gift of time and energy, departing wisdom or observations to help someone else. Feedback allows you to use your experience to help and empower others. Like with any other gift, feedback provides value for both the provider and receiver. Give the gift of feedback today.