How To Give Feedback And Its Importance

Lucas J. Pols
5 min readMar 4, 2017

Feedback

We are going to dive into three different topics here: why constructive feedback is necessary, how to give feedback, and how to make sure the other person hears the feedback. I’ll also be weaving in personal stories to help you understand best practices.

Our world has devolved into a place where people no longer give feedback. My belief is that people are hesitant to do so because they are fearful of the reactions that may follow. We have received such negative responses in the past that we now dismiss behavior, which could be improved, for fear of these reactions.

Before I took the dive into entrepreneurship, I remember an instance where this concept almost jeopardized a promotion in my previous career.

I was a few months away from interviewing for Regional Sales Executive, and I wanted to find out what areas of my work and personal lives I could improve upon that could also enhance my ability to take on a leadership role.

The only way I knew how to solicit candid feedback at the time was to have a 360 sent out to the region. A 360 at my former company is an anonymous feedback survey that sent out to everyone you report to as well as your peers. It has fifty questions, some of which are open-ended.

What I could uncover from this survey was that I was intimidating to the point of being almost unapproachable! Associates were slightly terrified of me, and it took an anonymous survey to find that out. I was more than happy to make a change to my behavior and fix the problem, but the question was, how long have I been perceived this way? Why am I just finding out about it now when it is something that I could have been working on for months already!

If we no longer talk about our faults and how to improve them, we will never get better.

So how do we give feedback constructively?

The essential items that we need to focus on while giving feedback are: being specific, detaching from emotion, abstaining from personal attacks, being empathetic, and offering specific suggestions to help fix the behavior.

For an online review, I would write something to the effect of:

I understand that life can get in the way, but I would encourage you to come to meetings a bit more prepared. You don’t want to communicate that you are neglectful. Something that I found useful was using Siri as my personal assistant and having her add in a reminder to do research by a certain time.

I’d challenge you to become more concise with your story telling. I enjoyed and could understand the point you were trying to make, but I was starting to lose interest by the end of it. If you tighten it up a bit, you’ll be able to enthrall your audience! A resource that helped me was going to Toast Masters on a consistent basis.

For an in-person review, I would use something to the effect of:

Hey, buddy, I understand that issues come about in the morning and I know we are all human, but on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of last week, as well as Monday and Tuesday of this week, you walked in at least 20 minutes late.

When someone comes in late, it means that the entire team meeting has to restart for them to be caught up.

My challenge is that it is not only disrespectful to me, but it is disrespectful to the entire team.

(Sit there in silence and wait for them to speak and when they do listen actively and empathize.)

I get it but let’s work together to find a solution to why this is happening and what exercises we can work on to help remedy the situation. What solutions do you propose we put in place?

[From there, we can work on an action plan timing his morning routine to the minute so that he knows exactly how long it takes to get out the door and begin arriving on time.]

After learning how to structure feedback, we want to express why we believe that feedback portrayed in this manner is crucial.

The entire process of giving feedback is pointless unless the other person is receptive to hearing it. We have outlined the steps above so that your comments have the best chance of being heard by the individual receiving it.

Imagine if we said something to you like this:

You’re always late.

Your stories are stupid and boring.

I hate that you came to our meeting unprepared.

If you were to structure your feedback like the above, it would immediately put the other person on the defensive. We stick with our outline because if the other person gets defensive, angry, or exhibits a negative emotion, they will never truly hear what we are saying. It will damage your relationship with this person and in fact be pointless because they will not have the ability to make a change.

Effectively and consistently providing feedback that is heard is a skill we will continue to refine until the end of time.

Final thoughts:

· I have not seen the sandwich method work. The sandwich method consists of starting positive, then moving to negative feedback, then returning to the positive. What I have found is that it comes across as insincere, and people do not like it nor are they able to hear the feedback that needs to be given.

· You are going to screw this up and this is OK. I’ve been doing this for years, and I still fall into poor habits when I am not consciously thinking about it. If you make a mistake and can recognize it, it means you’re making progress, so take pride!

· Emotions can be your downfall. If you are tired, grumpy, or angry, I promise that you will not be able to effectively communicate the way you want to.

· We are all in this together. We learn together to get better together.

· If you’re giving feedback in person, ask for permission to do so.

o Can I give you some feedback? Do you mind if I give you some feedback?

Lucas is the founder of Spark xyz, platform management software for incubators, accelerators, Angel groups, and VC’s.

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Lucas J. Pols

Chairman of the Board @ Spark xyz | President Tech Coast Angels