Whether it’s on career progression or a specific project, feedback is a crucial part of many corporate processes. When feedback is good (and by good I don’t just mean positive, but more on that in a moment) it helps teams and individuals grow and learn, moves projects forward and improves the ultimate output.
Is your feedback concrete and actionable? Comments like “I’m just not feeling it” or “It needs a bit more oomph” are completely subjective and meaningless.
However, many of us are never actually taught how to give feedback, which can give rise to miscommunication, frustration and inefficiency. This is particularly the case when feedback is used instead of clear direction at the start (something I would strongly advocate against but happens very frequently.) Create and iterate is all very well, but if, as a leader, you can’t provide a direction or plan at the outset and need to ‘see it to know it’s right’, you may want to reflect on what that does to your team.
Looking at feedback, I’m going to separate it into two categories: personal feedback (the type you’d get in an annual review) and work-specific feedback. For each, I’ve put together a checklist of questions to help assess whether the feedback you’re giving is productive or not. If you’re on the receiving end of feedback, feel free to use these lists to ask for clarification if you feel like the input you’re getting is vague.
Have you provided examples for each of your comments? There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing that, for example, ‘your communication style needs improvement’ with no concrete details of where the problems lie.
Have you identified opportunities where the person concerned can demonstrate improvements in the necessary areas? If you don’t know their daily remit well enough, this is something that can be done collaboratively.
Have you kept your own biases out of it? Unconscious bias creeps into all of our work lives, no matter how hard we try. Taking a moment to reflect on whether any of your own prejudices have affected your feedback is incredibly important, particularly if the person to whom you’re giving feedback is in a minority group.
Is everything you (and your team) are saying consistent? Very often if we’re giving feedback in team meetings, people will say different things and nobody synthesises or sets out consolidated, aligned feedback. One person should be in charge of doing this and they should know who they are from the outset.
Is your feedback concrete and actionable? Comments like “I’m just not feeling it” or “It needs a bit more oomph” are completely subjective and meaningless. Give examples of how it could be improved (even if the examples are bad, which you can acknowledge.)
Are you struggling to let go of something in your head, and not actually assessing what’s in front of you? Often we have an idea of where a project will go, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way. Also, if you didn’t communicate that clearly to the team at the outset, that’s on you…
The two simplest questions to ask yourself when giving feedback are “is this actionable” and “how would I feel if I got this feedback?” Sticking to these two simple rules will significantly reduce resentment in your team, speed up projects and improve communication.
If you want more advice on how to optimise your team productivity, we run comprehensive one-off sessions as well as longer programs. Email Sarah Phillips to find out more!