4 Tips for Delivering Better Feedback

Most of us value getting good feedback. We want to improve, and constructive criticism is what gets us there. But, alas, not everyone is good at delivering feedback. So that’s what we’ll focus on today: how to give useful feedback that people will truly hear and act upon.

How to Deliver Good Feedback

One key to delivering constructive feedback is clarity, explains Ellen Taaffe, a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations. This doesn’t mean just choosing your words carefully. There are other considerations to keep in mind, such as when you’re giving feedback and which medium you’re using. Taaffe offers up lots of advice in a recent episode of The Insightful Leader podcast. Here are some of the highlights:

Give lots of feedback: Don’t be stingy with your feedback, and definitely don’t deliver it only after something has gone terribly wrong, Taaffe says. Instead, feedback should be part of your normal routine. “Getting in the habit of giving feedback on a regular basis—it’s after a staff meeting or it’s after the project review or something that’s happening on a regular basis—is the best way. You’re modeling and practicing a culture of just continuously trying to get better.”

Deliver it promptly: Don’t wait to deliver feedback; give it right away. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting into a debate about what actually happened in a meeting or presentation. Plus, the recipient can feel blindsided or think that you’ve been ruminating on something that bothered you for weeks.

Don’t be too nice: Hurting someone’s feelings is never the goal. But when you need to deliver feedback the recipient may not want to hear, resist the urge to hem and haw while trying to couch it as something nice. You want to get your point across, and this only muddies the message. “I think that sometimes on our way to trying to be nice and fair and not insulting to someone, sometimes we’re not clear,” Taaffe says. To be sure you didn’t do that, Taaffe suggests, “at the end of a discussion, ask them, ‘What do you take away from our conversation’ as a way to hear what they heard.”

Give feedback in person if possible: The best way to give feedback is face to face. If that’s not possible, try a video chat or a phone call. “The more you can see faces and expressions and even hear voices, the better you can understand how it’s being received,” Taaffe says. “That’s far better than feedback that is on email or Slack, which is very much one way and open to interpretation.” And, if you have to deliver written feedback, please skip the emojis, Taaffe says.

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