During the course of our day we constantly interact with other people. Be it in our homes while getting ready for the morning or stopping to grab a coffee on our way to work. At work we talk and observe what our colleagues and customers do. Relaxing in a park, we comment on social content with friends. Every day we learn a little more about the lives that surrounds us and we become precious observers of others’ strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures. We use feedback as a way to influence. Being to satisfy our urge to have impact on others or simply to let them know how awesome they are, we share what we think of what we see. Today I’d like to share with you a few tips on how to deliver feedback in a positive, constructive and thoughtful way. This is what I have learnt and over my years managing awesome people at work and still learning everyday.
Should I talk about what happened or yet to happen?
Something happened. We want, we need to give feedback to somebody. The first question we may have is:”what shall we say?”. Did something bad happen that we wish to stop? Failed to accomplish a task, not meeting our expectations or something went simply wrong? Were we impressed and wowed by something unexpected, brilliant, amazing that caught our attention? Depends on which of the two, we want to focus our feedback differently.
Tip #1: If something went wrong, talk about the future. As observers, we are in a privileged position to note down all the detailed steps that went wrong. One after the other. Although it’s important to give feedback in context of what went wrong, we shouldn’t focus the talk only on just that. If something bad happened, let’s focus on what we think can happen next time and avoid the same failure. What others can learn from our observations? How they can become more awesome thanks to our help? Be positive and turn the table around to let others understand that failing is just part of a journey that moves forward, quickly, to learn.
Tip #2: If something was great, talk about the past. Success stories have a total different meaning to us. We get inspired by someone winning a challenging competition, by accomplishing something we cannot do or simply recognising the good things that happened. Let’s do that. Let’s highlight all the nitty gritty details we saw and made us excited. Let’s stay in the past as we want the other person to relive the success as it was seen under our eyes and memorise what was great. This is important as reliving these moments will help crystallise the instructions for success that they can repeat and keep more good things coming.
Why it is worth talking about?
We share what we believe is important to be known. But is it? Why do we think our feedback is important? What we live in front of our own eyes might not be the same or have the same importance from other people’s perspectives. Our own filters are the result of a combination of past experiences, bias and emotions. It’s important to do our best in lowering these barriers and be heard, with simplicity.
Tip #3: Talk about why it matters for you both. One way to make sure our filters don’t get in the way is to talk about the “whys”. Let’s make it explicit: what is the most important feedback for us? Why we think it should be important for other? Don’t just say it, ask back for confirmation. Do they share our priorities? Or they believe are superfluous points? Make sure to set the context right before spilling more details.
Tip #4: Don’t be afraid of awkwardness. Being direct often means leaving behind a few protections. Do not refrain to get away from social cohesion and what we are afraid to do. Confronting others with politeness and directness is the best gift we can give. Avoid the shy “beating around the bush” when sharing a critique. Avoid “doing the sandwich” and surround the awkward part of our feedback using sweet talk. Be honest and show how much we care, will help others to focus and direct their attention to us. T0 open up and actively listen.
When is the right time?
Finally, once found out what our feedback should be, delivering it at the right time is the last big decision. Should we wait for things to cool off before suggesting improvements? Should we shout-out in front of everyone immediately?
Tip #5: Share it soon when it’s simple, later when not. Truth is, timing feedback depends on many more factors, but an easy rule we can follow is to understand how much thinking we need to put into, before sharing. If we don’t know what the other person should take away from our feedback, we should think again about it. Is the problem at hand touching the nerves? Don’t allow the bias to get in the way and make us blind. On the other hand, don’t forget that other signals can give away our feedback as well. Our face expressions during a meeting, the excitement in replying a question, or the simplest “thank you”. They can go long ways if delivered right on the spot. No delays.
Thank you for reading me. I hope you enjoyed the tips and leave your comments and suggestions to make this better. What are your secret tips when providing feedback?