Most people know that feedback is important. It helps us to see ourselves from other people perspective, identify what skills to work on, receive recognition for what we did good and what we can improve.
But when it comes to actually giving or receiving feedback — it’s not that easy. Feedback given in the wrong way can demoralize or hurt other people. Even though it was done with the best intentions in mind.
In one of the previous articles, I have shared how we implemented feedback giving culture inside the organization. Here I would give recommendations how to share feedback the right way.
1. Prepare in advance
Do not rely on your memory and do not improvise. Be clear about what you’re going to say. When emotions raise high, you’d prefer sticking to your script. Avoid saying anything unplanned that might hurt another person.
2. Time matters
Share feedback as soon as you have something to say. The earlier you share it, the earlier a person can correct his or her behavior and improve. Timely feedback is usually understood and accepted very well. On the contrary, remembering the situation from the last year is difficult.
NOTE: if the situation raised high emotions — better wait till all the parties calm down.
3. Do it regularly
There’s no point in waiting until the end of the week, month or even a year to tell your colleagues what you think about them. Develop the habit of doing it as often as you can. If you have something new to say every day — great, do it! Check this article how to implement it in the whole organization/group.
4. Be concrete
Discuss specific characteristics or actions. Do not generalize. It helps remember the point and act on it if needed.
Bad: “You are a good writer!”
Good: “The last article you wrote about code reviews was very interesting. You are good at finding appropriate epithets and capturing reader’s attention!”
I always ask people to give examples of the situation if they share something general.
5. Always, always start with positive.
Positive start helps to get comfortable and gain some confidence. Even when it’s followed by the tough negative feedback.
You should target to make the whole feedback sharing process positive.
NOTE: Do not try to overuse Shit Sandwiches. They don’t seem to work. Just honestly mention positive feedback and then negative.
6. Discuss max 2–3 issues
Do not try to discuss everything at once. People don’t remember too many points. Usually, after receiving feedback there are topics to think about, so give them this time before discussing other points.
7. Ask questions
You might not know all the details or another person might not agree with your remarks. Be willing to admit you’re wrong if necessary. Feedback sharing is a two-way discussion, not a monolog.
8. Discuss an improvement plan
Give suggestions about how to help the person develop his strengths and fix the weaknesses. By giving suggestions you show that you do care about the other person. They will appreciate it.
9. Do not criticize a person.
Discuss his actions instead. We all make mistakes from time to time. Do not generalize from the first one, better help them fix it.
Bad: “You are lazy!”
Good: “You did last three tasks not good. You missed the deadline and made 4 mistakes. Let’s think together what can help you to be more diligent”
10. Relationships come first
We all share feedback with some goal in mind. You might want to improve performance and communication, fix mistakes or deliver a project faster. But your goal can be achieved only when you build relationships first. Do not try to push too hard. Seek first to understand and then help. If you fail with building the open and trustful relationship, you’ll most likely fail in achieving your goal as well.
Have to admit, this is the mistake I did so often and still learn to avoid. I focused on the goal and forgot about the empathy. And as a result — raised high emotions and didn’t achieve what I wanted.
11. Recognize publicly, criticize privately
Public recognition works great. However, public criticism is usually a shame. If you do it, people will avoid delivering the truth, fearing you’ll criticize them publicly. Such team is not a psychologically safe environment and would fail most likely. Share negative feedback only privately.
12. Do not overpraise
We all have much to grow, nobody is perfect. You don’t want the person to leave the discussion and think “Oh, I’m such a wonderful lovable person”. But “Cool, I did a great job meeting the project deadline, the team is happy. However, I need to work on improving my communication with the client.”
The advice above is suitable for any 2 parties: managers, employees, directors, friends or spouses.
At UPTech we taught all the team members these rules and adopted “Feedback sharing Fridays”. During the last Friday of each month, every team member should exchange feedback with at least 3 co-workers. It doesn’t mean that we share feedback only once a month. But it’s a good checkpoint not to forget to share feedback if you haven’t done it before.
It works great for us — team members do it on their own, helping each other grow. It’s so inspiring to see how the feedback helped become a better professional and a person.
And the last but not the least. Share all the feedback with love ❤️.