Strategies for Giving (and Getting) Feedback

Feedback is a vital part of our personal and professional lives.

Positive feedback is, of course, more fun to give and get; but negative feedback might play a bigger role in changing the overall behavior of team members. “Great job this week,” is nice to hear and say but not very specific. On the other hand, “Don’t ever do that again!” gets right to the point.

Here are a few strategies for getting and giving meaningful feedback:

Make it regular

Schedule regular team feedback sessions as well as one-on-one sessions with your team. If an individual has  an immediate supervisor, he or she should ask for time with that person too – weekly, monthly, quarterly, as long as it is productive and regular.

Be prepared

When giving feedback, especially negative feedback, it helps to write out why the feedback is necessary. The more simply the concerns can be described, the less likely the person giving the feedback will become mired in emotional responses. You can fall back on a single prepared sentence in your notes. Every team member should be prepared to receive feedback.

Get to the point

Sugarcoating negative feedback won’t help anyone and putting off positive feedback will muddy the message you are trying to deliver. Say what needs to be said right up front. Each team member should ask for directness when receiving feedback. As we’ve said before, no one should get stuck on nice.

Listen and accept

When you are on the receiving end, try not to be defensive  or argue. Right or wrong, deserved or not, this is how you are perceived. Listen to praise or criticism openly and take them both to heart. Once you understand what’s going right or wrong, you can develop an action plan for moving forward.

Grow and encourage growth

You didn’t get this far by giving up and neither did your team. You can handle both adversity and accomplishment with poise. We’re all learning. With any luck, we’re all getting better at what we do each day. When we do well, we want to know.

Keep it dignified

Some emotion in our responses to feedback is natural and unavoidable, but there is never a good reason to receive negative feedback by engaging in a tantrum, using foul language, or giving way to a blubbering breakdown . Make sure your language and body language expresses the reality of the situation: the negative feedback is a bump in a very long road.

Avoid the Artificial

We’ve listed other strategies before, like giving feedback face to face in a comfortable location. It’s important to look someone in the eye when praising or critiquing them. Likewise, meeting in a place that’s too informal — a cafeteria or parking lot — may undercut the message, and meeting somewhere that’s overly stuffy or busy may hinder open communication.

In general, it’s a good idea to give negative feedback with the same mindset as when receiving it: know what the person did well or not so well and be ready with strategies and next steps.

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