19 November 2019

The art of quality feedback

Every fortnight at Synergy we have a learn-over-lunch session, where someone from our Strategy team teaches us all something related to the work they’re doing for our brilliant clients.

The most recent one was from Jodi and was all about giving and receiving good quality, helpful feedback. It was timed well with our annual reviews, a time when knowing how to deliver and receive feedback is a key skill. Communication between employees is vital, and knowing how to give each other constructive feedback can help businesses to thrive. 

Jodi started by talking about how giving quality feedback is a skill. It’s a bit like communication – everyone assumes they can do it without practice or structure. 

All useful feedback should be structured and complete. Incomplete feedback generally looks like a judgement. For instance:

“You’re not a confident public speaker.”

This statement has no useful information for the recipient to act on. When were they not a confident speaker? According to whom were they not confident? In which public speaking event? At best this statement is incomplete feedback, and at worst, it’s an unkind judgement. 

Ouch. So do all judgements feel bad?

No. consider this:

“I love your outfit!”

This would be a much nicer comment to receive – and if you look a little closer you’ll see that although this is praise for an outfit, should the receiver want to replicate the pleasing garm combo, they would have little information to go with. This too, is a judgement. 

 

For feedback to be useful it must be complete and non-judgemental

While judgement is based on opinions, beliefs, biases and can be quite personal, feedback should always be borne from positive intention, based on facts, with evidence provided and delivered compassionately.

Feedback should enable someone to be more successful. Whilst it’s not always comfortable having a light shone on our not-so-great bits, the recipient should have enough information to be able to choose to make a change. It shouldn’t feel negative and it should be useful for the person you’re delivering it to. 

If it’s not going to help them to improve something, consider whether or not it’s quality feedback. Structuring feedback can help to ensure you’re making it constructive. Follow these four pointers next time you need to give someone feedback and see how it goes: 

 

Set your intention – why are you giving them this feedback? 

‘I want my colleague to be more successful and deliver even better presentations.’

Give specifics/context – provide examples of what you’re feeding back on 

‘During times where you are speaking in public, like in the team meeting last Monday…’

Cause and effect – highlight what effect their actions have, whether it’s positive or negative

‘You often play with your glasses when you speak – it comes across as if you are nervous, even though I know you are more than competent.’

Include a suggestion of how they might do things differently 

‘Going forward I want you to practice presenting with your hands used only to gesture and align with your speaking. I am happy to support you in whatever way you need.’

 

After thinking about how to give feedback well, we went on to learn the difference between our identities and our behaviour, and how to differentiate the two when giving / receiving feedback. Remember – feedback is a skill and requires practice to get it right. Often, lots of people get it wrong and direct judgements towards a person’s character rather than their skillset. 

A person’s behaviour is made up of their skills and outputs and how they approach what they do. A person’s identity on the other hand, is their values, beliefs and morals that make up who they are. It’s important to remember that who we are as people is not dependent on our skills or work outputs. When receiving feedback that suggests improvements, it’s not an attack on our identity, but simply something that could be used to refine or enhance our skillset. 

When giving and receiving feedback, it’s important to remember that nobody’s perfect and we should all “strive for progress, not perfection”. It can be a really positive thing when done well, and we should all be continuously seeking feedback from our colleagues and peers to help us improve. 

 

Speak to our coach Jodi if you would like to: 

  • Book a session on how to give excellent feedback to improve your team’s engagement and outputs
  • Understand how to embed a feedback-centric culture for a happier workforce and a healthier ROI
  • Book a coaching session to develop a practical approach of how you can grow in relation to a particular appraisal or piece of feedback

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