Providing Useful Feedback

Images of 3 faces drawn in green, yellow and redFeedback is a gift. A gift that we will often actively seek out and, at other times, will arrive unsolicited. No matter how the feedback arrives, we should see it as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Sounds easy doesn’t it?  Yet we know from the hundreds of thousands of 360 Degree Feedback surveys we have conducted, that giving and receiving effective feedback is one skill that is consistently rating below expectations.  These results prove that we all struggle with providing effective feedback to those that we serve.

At Full Circle Feedback, we are passionate about feedback and believe in the benefits of creating a safe environment where giving and receiving feedback is part of the operating rhythm, it’s the way we do things around here.  It is also a skill that needs to be developed and practiced to ensure we remain effective.  Our interest was sparked recently when we came across an article by Jennifer Porter titled “How to Give Feedback People Can Actually Use”. The article serves as a good reminder that providing feedback that people can actually use requires focus, emotional energy and absolute commitment to developing the person who is receiving the feedback.

While Porter’s article provides some useful guidelines on what developmental feedback looks like, at Full Circle Feedback, we believe that feedback should be cast far and wide to be effective. For full effectiveness it needs to be:

Clear and Concise: The feedback needs to be provided in a language and manner that is easily understood, aligned to the expectations and behaviours of the organisation they are in. It should include data based results and actual observations to explain the impact of the behaviours or outcomes. The feedback also need to be focused on the success of the individual, the things that they need to keep doing and the one (or at a maximum two) most important skills they need to develop.

Actionable: When we provide feedback, we are ultimate seeking to influence the future behaviours and outcomes of the person we are providing the feedback to. Therefore the feedback needs to reinforce those behaviours/results that have met the expectations and seek to improve those that did not meet expectations.  Avoid vague adjectives and ensure your feedback provides clear actionable outcomes for the recipient.

Specific and Non-Judgemental:  The feedback must be based on facts or observed behaviours. The feedback provider should keep it factual and objective and should avoid judgement based words that are blame focussed.  It needs to contain sufficient information to enable the receiver to understand the impact of what it is they are doing well and what it is they can get better at.  Use examples and actual observations to support the feedback and frame it in a way that benefits the receiver and ensures their success into the future.

Timely: Timely feedback is effective feedback.  Feedback needs to be provided when there is still the opportunity to reflect upon the outcomes/behaviours and learn from them. Feedback can be given at any time, it should not be limited to our monthly meetings or worse still, our annual performance discussions.  Feedback provided weeks after an event is much less effective than feedback provided in a timely fashion.

Most of us will avoid the feedback conversations if we can. This is despite the fact that effective feedback is one of the most powerful development tools we have available to us. As leaders, we need to set the example by actively seeking feedback on our own performance and behaviours. We also need to create and sustain an environment where it is expected that feedback is provided at every available opportunity.  Only then can we be truly focused on developing the capabilities of our people through the provision of effective feedback. As Bill Gates said ‘We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve’.  So share the gift that is feedback with those that you serve.

Happy leading!