July 09, 2020

Giving Feedback Bravely: 5 simple steps to effective feedback

We all know feedback is important, but that doesn’t make giving it any easier—it’s normal to worry about how the other person will interpret it, and to get caught up in the wording. These five steps for giving feedback can be applied to both positive and constructive feedback in the workplace.

1. Set the stage.

Share the “where and when” of what you’re giving feedback about. This gives the recipient useful context, forces you to keep it specific, and has higher impact. Feedback works best when it is timely and tied to discrete instances.

“I’d like to share something I felt about this morning’s meeting with the marketing team…”

2. Stick to the facts.

Focus on specific, observable behaviors. Feedback that is not delivered from an objective point of view can often make the recipient feel they need to defend themselves. Explaining what happened in terms of facts kept as neutral as possible helps the recipient listen and understand your message, rather than rebutting it.

“It was difficult to have a productive conversation because we didn’t have the revenue data to review.”

3. Give a “So what?”

Share what you think the impact of the observed behavior has been or will be. This is where you’re allowed to get subjective, but you should still lead with data rather than emotion. When you share the effects of the other person’s words, actions, or inaction, be very careful about representing other people’s viewpoints: when in doubt, speak for yourself, not others.

“Without the revenue numbers ready to review, people could only share more assumptions and opinions, which are not the inputs we should be be basing big decisions on.”

4. Ask and listen.

Ask for the other person’s perspective on the situation, and be ready to hear it. Use an open-ended question to start the dialogue, and let the other person know they can take time to think about what you’ve just shared.

“I would love to hear your thoughts on my feedback and on how you feel the meeting went, whenever you’re ready.”

5. Decide what’s next.

Agree on next steps. This can mean a lot of different things depending on the circumstances of the feedback, but it’s always based on a shared desired outcome. Whether that’s a proposed solution to a problem, a plan to work on a growth opportunity, or just the intention of following up later, walking away with a next step helps all parties feel more positive about the conversation.

“Let’s schedule some time later this week to plan ahead so we’re on the same page for the next Marketing meeting.”

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