Delivering better feedback

Giving feedback is one of the most important tools leaders have to manage their teams. However, when feedback is badly delivered, this can reduce its effectiveness.

As a leader, you’re going to be giving both formal and informal feedback. So here are 10 ways of giving feedback to make sure your team sees the most benefit.

1. When Giving Feedback, Be Specific

You can improve your feedback by using specific examples where you saw a problem or positive event and referring to it directly.

There is no value in telling a team member “You need to work better with your colleagues” if you don’t have any specific examples that you can use to describe why this is the case.

Without being specific, your feedback can easily be ignored.

2. When Giving Feedback, Use the Company Values or Your Team Purpose

Sometimes you’ll come across situations where you feel that someone’s behaviour was not quite right, but you can’t tell what the actual problem is.

A helpful was to resolve this may be to see whether you could use your company values or your team purpose to provide a reference point for your feedback.

For example, if one of your company values is “Teamwork”, then you may be able to use this as a way to highlight poor teamwork behaviour from your team members.

For more about why a Team Purpose is important, read this post: Don’t Have a Clear Team Purpose? Here’s Why You Need One.

Company values or a team purpose can be a good reference point for identifying behaviour that is unwanted and specifically drawing attention to it.

3. When Giving Feedback, Avoid the Compliment Sandwich

You’ve probably heard of the compliment sandwich, where negative feedback is provided between two pieces of good feedback.

“That was a great presentation you gave yesterday, well done.”

“You haven’t hit your sales targets for the last quarter and this is a big problem.”

“That’s a great tie you have on today, where did you get it?”

While this might seem strange, it actually happens quite frequently. People often feel awkward giving people bad feedback, so they try to soften the blow by saying something nice at the same time.

This is less effective because you are mixing positive and negative points. Your team member might leave the meeting feeling quite confused and not really understand that there’s a problem.

If you need help with having hard conversations, check out the Difficult Conversations eBook.

4. When Giving Feedback, Don’t Act On Hearsay

Giving feedback - hearsayIn some teams, informal feedback about other teams and people (yes, gossip!) is common. When you’re working in this environment, it’s important to attempt to check any hearsay before you pass it onto anybody.

If you are unable to verify your feedback, don’t say anything, because it could be someone simply playing politics to get what they want.

In other words, be very careful if you are using somebody else’s information when giving feedback to a team member, if you haven’t observed a problem for yourself.

5. When Giving Feedback, Verify it With Others

If you’re in a team where you don’t always work closely with every team member, it’s important to build relationships with the people who do.

For example, you may lead a team of people who work closely with other business areas, so they are out and about for a lot of the time. You can’t see their behaviour directly, so you need to find ways to monitor their performance.

Otherwise, you won’t be giving accurate feedback. You’ll just be playing a guessing game based on your own limited experiences.

6. When Giving Feedback, Make Sure There Are Outcomes

There is no point in giving feedback that has no outcome. You need to ensure that the feedback receiver knows how they can take steps to improve.

A tool that can help with this is the SBI-BI model, which stands for Situation, Behaviour, Impact.

Giving Feedback - SBI-BI

This model allows you to discuss the Situation that occurred, the Behaviour that was problematic, and how this Impacted others. Then, you discuss an alternative Behaviour that could have been used instead, to create a more positive Impact.

For more on the SBI-BI tool, read this post from MindTools:

This structured approach will help you to provide better feedback, and give people something to work on for next time.

7. When Giving Feedback, Consider the Good and the Bad

Some people don’t deliver any news unless it’s bad news. If your team is great at something, it’s important not to say “well that’s just called doing your job”.

It’s important to give positive feedback where you can. Otherwise, you run the risk of being a leader who only speaks to your team when something bad has happened.

This is likely to make the whole feedback exercise into a stressful encounter.

8. When Giving Feedback, Be Honest

Come on, say what you mean. Don’t dance around the issue or fail to deliver bad feedback. People need feedback to improve and to understand how people are perceiving them.

It’s definitely harder to deliver bad feedback to people more senior than you, but I’ve managed to do it successfully from time to time. The key is to appear constructive rather than spiteful.

Remember that your other team members are relying on you to address performance issues in your team, so don’t avoid them.

You can read more about the danger of conflict avoidance in this post: 3 Ways Conflict Avoidance Destroys Leadership. And how to fix it.

9. When Giving Feedback, Stick to the Point

When you’re giving feedback, make sure that it is clear to all people that this is the purpose of the meeting. If you deliver bad feedback, be prepared for an uncomfortable situation, as some people don’t respond favourably to negative reviews.

Sometimes people may respond and give you negative feedback of your own at the same time. This is OK.

But it’s important to make sure it’s clear that this session is about them, not you. You can talk about your own feedback later.

10. When Giving Feedback, Make It Timely

Giving feedback - timelyDon’t wait until it’s too late for your team to act on your feedback. As soon as you are aware of it, you should really deliver it. I’ve seen situations where people didn’t know there was an issue until it came to performance review time, which might only happen once a year!

This gives your team a chance to improve their performance, rather than having no idea and hearing about it months later.

This is the same with positive feedback. If you hold onto it for too long, the person may not even have known they were doing well.

What are your experiences with delivering feedback? Tell me your stories in the comments below!

Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help on this topic, you can send me a private message through my contact page.