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What does good feedback look like?

By James Larter

Posted 05/01/2021

And why it’s so important to get it right.

Yearly or half yearly appraisals are clearly a thing of the past – gone are the days of storing up feedback for those isolated (and somewhat stilted) interactions.

In today’s world managers need to be ready and prepped to give feedback in the moment, ready to open dialogues, address issues before they have chance to escalate and maintain conversations as an ongoing personal development process – easier said than done!

One of the real problems in giving effective feedback is knowing how the other person is going to take it, how will they react?

We’ve all been there, a simple point in the right direction gets mis-interpreted and before you know it, the situation is ten times worse than if you hadn’t opened your mouth – So what do we do? – We keep our mouths closed to avoid potential conflict… and does it solve any problems??? NO!

Giving positive feedback comes to us all a lot more naturally, it’s much easier to find the words to support someone’s achievements and still it often gets neglected, complacency can easily creep in, we start taking people for granted and their contribution can quickly be overlooked.

So what does feedback achieve?
  • It builds confidence
  • It sets out a clear understanding of expectations
  • It helps individuals to learn from mistakes and not repeat them
  • It makes people feel valued
  • It creates a culture of nurture and support
  • It helps develop strong rapport
  • It motivates people to do better
And what should it look like?
  • Timely – this could be spontaneous but it could also be deciding to schedule a meeting to address more involved issues
  • Specific – good or bad it needs to mean something to the receiver and be relevant to their actions
  • Candid – all feedback should be sincere
  • Regular – avoid complacency and get in to a good habit
  • Positive – avoiding using negative language which will put the receiver on the defensive
  • Private – make sure you’re in the right place to have an open and honest conversation.
So, we all understand the theory – the difficulty is actually doing it!

How do you get it right first time?

Which guinea pigs will have to suffer, as you hone your skills?

How do you get the confidence you need?

How do you maintain respect as you implement the change you know should happen?

Just like any new skill, giving feedback gets easier and better the more you practice.

But not just practice – we need to practice and receive feedback on that practice. Without feedback, we can’t improve. When we practice and get feedback it raises our self-awareness and we move from unconscious incompetence, to conscious incompetence – we know what we need to do to improve.

Practice helps you to learn from your mistakes, try a different approach next time, adapt your language, tweak your style and importantly learn what works and what doesn’t.

As you can see – I’m a firm believer in both feedback and taking the time to practice, so that any feedback you offer is taken on-board as you intended –  I don’t believe anyone needs to fail.

Practice is at the heart of every development initiative I have ever been involved with – it works.






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