How To Give Feedback — Feedback That Brings Change

Giving feedback is challenging, and giving effective feedback even more so.

My goal is to be able to provide feedback that:

  • is effective, and will bring change;
  • won’t bring out feelings of defensiveness;
  • show that I’m supportive; and
  • help build good relationships.

I’ve been struggling with providing non-positive feedback, so I asked Irene Lee a close friend and colleague of mine for some help and she gave me several really good pointers, three of which really resonated with me.

1. Provide good feedback most of the time.

We often notice what someone’s doing poorly, but how often do we notice what someone’s doing well? And on top of that, when do we normally speak up? Again, it’s when something hasn’t been done the way we like. We have a tendency to focus and notice when something hasn’t been done ‘right’.

However, at the same time — It’s hard to receive and really listen to non-positive feedback without getting defensive. During self-defence mode, feedback becomes less effective. It hits and rebounds off the wall that we’ve built to protect ourselves.

So the person you’re providing feedback to, needs to feel safe enough and validated enough in order to actually receive and absorb your feedback. And one way of building a safe environment is to provide good feedback most of the time because it communicates how much they are valued.

Knowing that someone truly believes and values you, makes you much more open to hearing feedback from that person.

2. Reference rules/codes-of-conduct/guidelines/performance-goals and not your personal opinion.

Your opinion is personal, and often it doesn’t mean much to anyone else but yourself.

On the other hand rules/codes-of-conduct/guidelines/performance-goals are set in stone, and hold a significant amount of weight and meaning for everyone. It’s a much more powerful and effective platform for providing feedback than your personal opinion.

So when providing feedback, rather than say “I don’t think you should be doing X”, try “One of our business values is A, so let’s do B so we can better align with our business value”

3. Guide but don’t tell — interactive feedback.

What happens when someone talks at you? You forget, you zone out and you’re not really committed to remembering and applying what they’ve said.

It’s the same with feedback.

However, when you ask the right questions — questions that will get them thinking and reveal the shortcomings you’ve noticed, the feedback becomes something that they own and and acknowledge, rather than something being force-fed. They agree and buy-into the feedback, and are much more likely to apply the feedback because it’s something they’ve come up with themselves.

To do this, we need to think about the endpoint/conclusion and work backwards to figure out what questions to ask.

I’m discovering that knowing and executing are two entirely different things, but I’m going to keep these at the forefront of my mind and practice practice practice.

What are your top tips for providing effective feedback? I’m only just learning and would love to read what your tips are :)

Growth & Marketing @Canva with a passion for all things data

Growth & Marketing @Canva with a passion for all things data