Skills 360 – Giving and Receiving Feedback (Part 1)

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Welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today I want to talk about giving feedback.

Say “feedback” and a lot of people will immediately think of a performance review. You sit down with someone you manage and explain what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. It’s a situation we’ve all been in, on both sides of the desk.

However, feedback is much more than what we do in a structured and scheduled situation. Feedback is an ongoing process, and we give feedback to everyone around us, not just those who report to us. That includes colleagues and co-workers, and our managers or superiors. Feedback happens every day, between everyone in a company. You might be giving feedback and not even realize it. Every time you let someone know what you think about what they’re doing, you’re giving feedback.

Okay, now let’s talk about the kinds of feedback we give. First, there’s negative feedback, or criticism, such as “Joe, I think you need to shorten your sales presentation and work on your delivery. I think it’ll be more effective that way.”

Then there’s positive feedback, or praise, such as “Tanis, I think your presentation was great. You didn’t overwhelm people with information and the visuals really helped emphasize the key points.” Those statements are easy to recognize as feedback, but feedback can also be daily reassurance in which you let people know you’re okay with what’s happening. Like this: “Yep. Looks good.” Or this: “That makes sense. Let’s do it.”

It’s very important to balance these kinds of feedback. You don’t have to deliver every critique sandwiched between praise, but be aware of your overall balance. Too much negative feedback can damage a person’s confidence and sense of well-being. It can be demotivating, which is the opposite of what we want to do. How do you feel when someone keeps saying “Well, you could have done that differently.” Or “that just doesn’t work.” Or “that idea is never going to fly.” It’s very easy to dwell on what people need to improve, but we can’t ignore what people do well.

And we should tell them about it. Positive feedback can inspire, motivate, and reassure. How do you feel when you hear things like “Great job.” Or “I think that looks fantastic.” Or “Just wanted to let you know I read your report, and it was just what I was hoping for.”

Now, good feedback has a few important qualities: it is immediate, direct, and specific. Feedback is immediate when it comes not long after the work or behavior you’re giving feedback on. Feedback is useless, and rather annoying, when it comes months after the fact.

Feedback is direct when it’s delivered to the person who it’s intended for. That means you shouldn’t get others to deliver feedback for you. It feels disrespectful, and there’s a good chance that it won’t be delivered in the way you want.

And feedback is specific when it includes evidence to support the central idea. An example of specific feedback might be: “Joan, I noticed that some of the personnel files are incomplete. We need to make sure that each file includes signed performance reviews.”

By being specific, especially with negative feedback, we’re giving people ways to rectify the situation. Remember, feedback is about enabling success and producing better results. And to do that, make sure you give a good balance of feedback and that you keep it immediate, direct, and specific.

Now, while giving good feedback is not always easy, receiving feedback can be even harder. The important thing is to keep the conversation focused on the work, not on the person. It’s easy for the receiver to begin taking things personally, so just watch your language and be sensitive to the needs of different people. Tune in next time to learn more about how to receive feedback well. Should be a great show.

That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript.

So long! And see you again soon.