Seven top tips for giving feedback

By: Mairead McDillon

Date: 4 September 2012

Seven top tips for giving feedback/Two people having a discussion{{}}Feedback is important to us all. Constructive feedback helps to motivate people, but poorly delivered feedback can have the opposite effect. So it’s essential to get it right every time. If you’re running a small business or or start-up, resources are likely to be tight and you need everyone working efficiently, so it’s even more important to ensure your feedback generates the necessary results.

We’ve developed these seven top tips to help get it right every time…

1.    Make the person feel like a million dollars

Thank the person for their contribution and make them feel great about themselves. Praise them for their efforts and let them know you understand how much work was involved. 

2.    Be enthusiastic

This is your opportunity to empathise and encourage the person to develop and improve their skills. Take an interest in the person’s goals. It is not about perfection every time; it’s about progress towards a goal. Encourage them to never give up.

3.    Give specific examples

To demonstrate you really understand how the person’s contribution added value to your business, give specific examples. Collect your comments into meaningful sets to make them easier to digest. Start each set with praise for what they did well and then make constructive suggestions as appropriate.

4.    Bigger picture

Explain to the person how their work contributes to the running of the organisation. This is very inspirational and will often help them to understand how to do the job better.

5.    Listen when asking for change

If you want the person to change their behaviour, give an example of the behaviour you want to change. Point out ways their behaviour has affected other people within your business. Allow the person to tell their side of the story. There may have been genuine reasons for their behaviour. The request to change should be made in a non-aggressive manner and take their comments into consideration. Both the giver and receiver of the feedback should walk away feeling that a fair resolution was achieved.

6.    Use a light a touch

Ask yourself if the person's performance was adequate for the purpose, rather than comparing it with how you would have done it.

7.    Offer a suggestion sandwich

A successful model for feedback is to start with positive comments about the person’s strengths and successes. Follow this with constructive suggestions about how to perform even better, allowing them to comment and ask questions. Finally bring in some additional positive points and encourage them to feel motivated to introduce the changes you have suggested.

Many people find delivering “negative feedback” difficult, but by following these suggestions giving feedback can be a constructive and rewarding process for both parties.

Mairead Dillon and Jane Penson are members of Toastmasters International, a worldwide not-for-profit organisation focused on developing communication and leadership skills 

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