On Delivering Feedback

I appreciate the article “Feedback (and Other Dirty Words),” which gives some insights on what is essential in delivering effective feedback. Here is an excerpt from the post.

Done right, feedback is not only a good thing, it is essential to growth and performance. They say we need to do more than tweak our feedback practices, we need to completely rethink the what, how, and why.

They begin by defining feedback as “Clear and specific information that’s sought or extended for the sole intention of helping individuals or groups improve, grow, or advance.” This forms the basis for their Feedback-Fixing Movement.

“Every great feedback experience,” they write, “is anchored in fairness, focus, and frequency.”

Fairness is about trust. “When trust and fairness are absent, because either the feedback itself or the extender [of feedback] seems unfair or biased, the receiver retreats into protection mode.” We generally associate feedback with criticism because that’s sadly the only time most people speak up.

Focus is about making the feedback specific, targeted, and brief.” When we dump on people, they shut down and the feedback moment is gone. “Dishing out bite-sized portions of off-the-cuff gratitude, recognition, direction, or coaching can move the performance needle much more effectively than hours of training sessions, development seminars, or dismal laundry lists of your rights and wrongs from the past year.”

Frequency is the accelerator. “Connecting frequently speaks volumes. It says, ‘I’m paying attention, what you do is important and notable, and you are a priority.’” Informal and spontaneous is the secret to frequency.

All three suggestions make sense, but the focus on “fairness” stuck with me.  I think there can be a fine line between “thoughtful” and “thoughtless” criticism, which is meant to put others down instead of lifting them up.  I know that I have been guilty of offering feedback (criticism) that was not helpful and maybe did more harm than good.  This is something I am continuously working on.

When we say things like “you need to get a thicker skin,” sometimes we are solely putting the responsibility on how a person received feedback rather than the person who is giving the feedback.  Even with the best intentions and delivery, feedback can be still tough to receive. But, if we want the people we serve to grow, whether it is our students or our colleagues, it is necessary that they know while we are trying to help guide them forward, we also do this because we value them and have their backs.  

Source: George Couros