Giving good feedback is not always easy, but it is essential if you want to continuously improve as an organisation. It can ensure that an individual improves performance, changes negative behaviour or is more motivated. Although it is hard to predict how it will be received, there are a number of rules and tips which make giving it easier. These rules and tips are provided below.
Giving one-on-one feedback. Do not give your feedback in the presence of others. Find a quiet and neutral place with privacy. This puts the recipient in a position to also respond in return. The only exception is when you want to give positive feedback in the form of a compliment.
Ensure that the intention is always aimed at improving someone’s behaviour. Do not use feedback to let off steam. Feedback is valuable when there is a strong chance of improving the skills of the recipient. This is the case if there is an opportunity to apply these skills again in the near future. It should be given in a coaching manner and focused on improvement.
Describe concrete and changeable behaviour. Do not give feedback about someone’s personality, but about someone’s behaviour. This ensures that you do not come across as judging. Ensure that it is concrete and provide specific examples. This gives the recipient the opportunity to actually do something with it. State in a couple of points (not too many, 1 or 2 is sufficient) what, in your opinion, the next steps should be. This provides a starting point and the recipient will appreciate it.
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Do not speak on behalf of others. Speak on your own behalf. State what you have observed and what you think of it. Speak using the I-form. As soon as you include the opinion of others, it will feel like an attack. This only causes the recipient to wonder who is critical of him or her.
Do not make any distinction between men and women. Research shows that the feedback that women receive is systematically less specific. This applies to both praise and feedback focused on development. Men, therefore, receive a clearer picture of what they do well and more specific guidance as to what is required to reach the next level.
Focus on one issue at a time. People have the tendency to save their feedback for a particular moment. However, when somebody gets to hear about several things that have not gone well in the past year, that individual shall become defensive and is probably less likely to change behaviour.
Be honest. Do not exaggerate and give all the facts without being destructive.
Ask permission to give feedback. “Do you have a moment and are you open for feedback?” or “I have noticed a couple of things and wondered if you are interested in feedback?”. An easy question, but one which has a lot of impact. In this way, you have placed the ball in the hands of the recipient, making them less likely to be defensive. The recipient can prepare for the fact that he or she is about to receive feedback and that it can be both positive and negative.
Do not wait too long. The sooner you give feedback the better. Feedback is most valuable to the recipient when he or she is still able to change something in order to improve the outcome. A football coach does not wait until after the match, but gives feedback to his players during the match and at half-time, so that they can perform even better during the match. If you talk about results in the past, ensure that you state how things can be improved in the future.
Give a compliment more often. Giving a compliment gives the recipient a good feeling. This is because it releases dopamine in the brain. Research even shows that compliments motivate more than presents and money. In addition, compliments strengthen the underlying relationships. In short, compliments only improve work satisfaction.
Forget the Sandwich method (2x positive and 1x negative). There are still organisations that offer feedback tools and training based on the Sandwich method, although this has been discouraged since 2013. The thinking behind this is that you start with a compliment (the top slice of bread), then the critical feedback (the filling) and then another compliment (the bottom slice of bread). However, scientific data shows that this has two consequences.
Consequence 1: staff see through the method. They hear the compliment and brace themselves for the critical feedback. This ensures that the compliments do not come across as genuine.
Consequence 2: if the compliments come across as genuine, the critical feedback is forgotten. People often remember what happens first and last in a conversation.
Be open for a follow-up and make this known. Receiving feedback is at least as difficult as giving feedback. Somebody can be surprised and does not know immediately how to respond to it. By letting them know that you are open to having a follow-up conversation, you give the recipient time to think how he or she can use it to improve.
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