Feedback is the food of progress and, whilst it may not always taste great, it can be very good for you. The ability to provide constructive feedback to others is really helpful in terms of helping them to tap into their personal potential and can certainly help to forge really positive and mutually beneficial relationships.
From your own personal perspective, any feedback that you receive is free information and it is your choice entirely whether you take it on board or not. Feedback is a great service in terms of helping you to discover things you don’t know about yourself, and is very useful in helping you to get a different perspective.
Some people find it very challenging to accept feedback and can feel very uncomfortable in giving it, even when it is positive.
A crucial element of giving feedback is the way in which it is delivered. There may be occasions where you have felt patronised when someone has delivered feedback; however, the key skill here is to see beyond the delivery technique and focus on the quality of the message.
Remember, feedback is a gift. It is free information that you can do anything you like with.
Sometimes people won’t necessarily immediately recognise how positive some feedback can be. It may take a while for them to reassess and to later recognise the positive impact it has made on their lives.
To receive honest, constructive feedback is much like receiving a gift, whether we think so or not at the time. The challenge is to receive feedback with an open mind and learn from it, and disregard our natural instinct to defend ourselves or our actions.
Giving and receiving constructive feedback needn’t be the anxiety-filled experience that we sometimes create in our minds. Developing the attitude that feedback is a gift in disguise will enable you to be more positive and more confident about this life skill as a development tool. It will help you to tap into your undiscovered, unleashed potential and will also help you to help others to achieve more and to become more successful. Feedback is a wonderful tool and used constructively can open many doors to many amazing possibilities. Feedback is indeed the food of progress.
‘Champions know that success is inevitable; that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. They know that the best way to forecast the future is to create it.’
Michael J. Gelb
Steps to Success
View feedback as the food of progress
Be responsive and open-minded
Use the feedback formula
Focus on behaviour not personality
Only feedback something that can be changed
Make feedback a positive experience.
The Benefits of Effective Feedback
Feedback is essential to personal development and progress. If delivered effectively, it can help us develop a clear understanding of what is expected of us, and will provide us with essential tools to improve our performance
Take responsibility for your reactions
Keep calm and carry on
Effective feedback has a wealth of benefits
Maximising personal potential
Raising awareness of personal strengths
Identifying areas in need of improvement
Evaluating personal performance and that of others
Encouraging self-monitoring and self-reflection.
Barriers to Effective Feedback
Feedback can be difficult to deliver if it is not all positive, and poorly delivered feedback can provoke a negative response and be destructive for both parties. Fear of feedback not being positively received can also be damaging. It is therefore a good idea to be aware of the barriers to effective feedback in order that you can counter them whichever end of the feedback you are on.
Feedback can quickly be turned into a negative, counter-productive experience by:
- Hurt feelings or awkwardness
- Anger, denial, blaming or rationalisation
- Resistance or defensiveness
- Fear of damaging the relationship between parties
- Disregard of feedback
- Fear of demotivating/being demotivated
- Being too general and not related to specific facts or observations
- Being viewed as representative of bureaucracy and stringent or arbitrary rules.
- Ask yourself what concerns you most about giving feedback
- Ensure that your communication style is clear, effective and positive
- Don’t criticise, demand or give orders
- Observe performance regularly so feedback is specific and accurate
- Outline the benefits and importance of feedback
- Avoid triggering defensiveness by being compassionate and understanding
- Show the person you are giving feedback to that you genuinely want to see them succeed
- Ask them their views on their performance and strengths. Get them to make their own suggestions for areas for improvement.
If you are aware of the barriers to effective feedback and are therefore able to avoid them, your desire for a positive outcome should be apparent to the person you are feeding back to. Make it clear that your intentions are to encourage the benefits of effective feedback for their own gain as well as your own or the company’s.
Feedback does not have to be a formal appraisal or a written assessment. It can be an informal discussion between two parties, whether they are on different levels in a company hierarchy, or simply colleagues or peers. Irrespective of the level of formality, however, it is important that feedback is an interaction between two parties rather than a one-way transaction from the person delivering the feedback, to the recipient.
If feedback is viewed and delivered as a directive rather than a forum for discussion, it is unlikely to have the desired effect of positive action and improved performance.
It is also worth noting that people value feedback when delivered by someone they consider credible, who they view as a role model and respect for their knowledge and expertise.
Whilst effective feedback results in positive outcomes, failure to provide feedback at all can have a seriously detrimental effect on morale and performance. Lack of feedback can lead to false personal assessment of performance and the idea that no improvement is required. Aside from preventing personal growth and development, such assumptions can also lead to under-performance, lack of motivation and distrust.
So feedback really is an important motivational tool and should be used to foster positive attitudes to self-improvement and personal development.
The Feedback Formula
To be good at giving feedback, it is really important to first of all ask yourself: ‘Will this feedback be useful and can this person actually do anything about it?’ If the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’ then the feedback is constructive. Following a process is very helpful in giving good feedback:
The Feedback Formula
- Tell someone what they did
- Explain the effect that it had
- If feedback is negative, help them to explore alternative ways of doing it
- If feedback is positive, reinforce the continuation of doing it.