"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve."
– Bill Gates, American business magnate.
Feedback... There is something inherently awkward about the process of giving and receiving feedback. If done – and taken – in a negative vein, it can feel a lot like judging or being judged, and that never leaves us feeling positive.
However, if done well, feedback is essential to good performance in the workplace, whether you're a one-man outfit, selling goods from the back of a lunchtime sandwich truck, or a multinational corporation. You may survive without it, but you're better off with it.
There is a wealth of resources available to help you ensure that the process is planned and implemented properly, so that you can get the best results from it. However, not everyone follows this advice, or is even aware of it. As a result, you've likely experienced both good and bad examples of feedback, and these experiences can be invaluable to improving your own feedback practice.
We wanted to find out your top tips for giving and receiving feedback at work, so we asked our friends and followers on social media to tell us what works for them. We had some great responses that demonstrate just how carefully people are approaching the process of giving and receiving feedback in their organizations.
Our Facebook page came alive with contributions! Here is a selection of your views:
London manager Mick Avern, in particular, has given me a case of "manager envy" with his totally positive take on a great feedback process. He says "I love positive feedback. I believe that, rather than "right and wrong," you are right or you learn. Make a mistake? That's fine, learn from it... it's a lesson. With the company I work for, the behaviors we believe in are: Genuine, Professional, Inclusive, and Proactive. I'm a manager, I love being told I am valued and so I tell staff (not employees) when they have displayed those behaviors. They really enjoy the feedback." I commend you, Mick! If only every manager was as positive as you are... we'd all be skipping into our workplaces!
Emmanuel Hamatwi, from Choma, in Southern Zambia, promotes some important parameters to ensure the process of giving feedback remains fair and positive when he says, "While giving feedback, it's important to stick to factual issues and how the organization is affected. Focus on how change and adjustment can help everyone and the organization. Confidential feedback should be carefully planned, especially when dealing with sensitive matters. Record and log feedback sessions and points covered. Don't reprimand people in the presence of others. Check the mood around. Be humane."
On the matter of receiving feedback, Aqeel Asghar bravely puts himself on the line in the name of improving his best practice. "For receiving feedback, I analyze the results, output and satisfaction, then simply ask others for the best alternate to the job which I did," he says.
Our followers on Twitter® also had some useful offerings. Paulette Rao (@PauletteRao) pointed out that feedback should be "timely, constructive and objective to have positive impact."
Jane (@jbasslearning) offered some advice to those receiving feedback: "Listen openly – don't try to explain why you did what you did, it only comes across as defensive." She has highlighted how easy it is to react defensively when we feel that we are being criticized. However, putting aside our feelings and considering the feedback objectively can help you to see where you can improve your skills. You'll then be in a good position to ask for any support you may need.
Our LinkedIn® followers had some further tips for managers or colleagues who want to ensure a positive feedback experience. Shirley Joseph urges feedback givers to first question their motives: "Know yourself... What are your motives? Keep the goal of your communication in mind. What do you want to convey? Lastly, remember: timing, tone, and delivery – It's all about what, when and how you say it."
Another supporter of a measured and reasoned feedback process is Terri Giosia. He advises, "If you're getting feedback, be open and not defensive. Giving feedback #1 rule: before you give it, think about how you like to get feedback. Ask the person 'What are you doing well?' Reinforce what they are saying. Ask them 'What are the areas you believe you can improve upon?' and let them give the answers. If they haven't said what you want to hear, it's time for you to "coach" them on the areas you want to review. Don't raise your voice... give them tools, a timeline... let them know you'll check in, be there for them if they need anything. At the end, let them paraphrase what you've just said, to ensure comprehension." I like how Terri's questions are worded – Asking your team member to work out for themselves what they do well and what they need to improve will help the feedback session to seem less "judgy" and will keep feelings of defensiveness at bay.
By first questioning what it is you want to say and why, you can prevent the feedback session descending into negativity and defensiveness. The sentiment of carefully choosing how you provide feedback was also picked up by Fatima Piñeiro-Somoza. Fatima champions "positive non-verbal language" when providing feedback – another example of how carefully considering your own behavior can alter the outcome of a feedback session.
We received some really great responses, so thank you to all those who gave such careful consideration to the topic. Here is a snapshot of some of them:
- Leading Life (@life_leading), "Feedback should be timely, constructive and objective to have positive impact."
- Pamela Hondzinski, "Easy... I ask my colleagues!"
- EWASS (Education) (@EWASSEducation), "Being a critical friend is important... fair and consistent. Empathy with boundaries."
- Chloe Wooles, "Be clear about why you're giving the feedback, particularly if the recipient hasn't asked you for it. And be prepared to elaborate if asked or if required."
You can still put forward more tips for giving and receiving feedback at work. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section, below.