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Five Steps to Giving Constructive Feedback

Mar 17, 2008
Giving feedback is one of the most important interpersonal skills for any manager.

The purpose of constructive feedback is to provide information that will contribute to improvements and create better results. For feedback to be useful, it has to be actionable, otherwise it's likely that the situation or behaviour will recur.

Whenever you're giving feedback, keep in mind that you'll probably have an ongoing relationship with this person, so use your feedback to reinforce good relations.

Let's say that you're giving constructive feedback to a member of your staff. Here are five steps to help you give good feedback:

1. Timing.
Make sure the time is right. The sooner the better, but if you're upset about the situation - or your employee is - take a "time-out." This is preferable than giving or receiving feedback when one of you is already in a bad mood.

2. Choose your words.
The way you say something can have a great impact on the receiver. Depending on your choice of words, you can establish an amicable feedback environment or a hostile one.

Saying, "You need to do..." or "You're not doing this properly," can put the receiver on the defensive from the get-go. Using the pronoun "you" makes the comments personal and can be interpreted as condescending or highly critical.

Instead, say "I noticed that..." or "I understand that..." Beginning feedback phrases this way discusses the action or behaviour that needs to be changed, not the person.

3. Start with the positive.
Positive feedback acknowledges good contributions and work well done. Give specific examples of what the receiver did well. Doing so is more meaningful than a general "Good job!" comment that can be said to anyone, any time, and doesn't even have to be sincere.

Let the receiver know the positive impact their contributions had on the department or organization so they understand the results - this also lets them know that you see it and appreciate it. In addition, reinforcing the positive encourages more of the same.

4. Be descriptive and talk about the facts.
When giving constructive feedback, discuss what happened, not how you feel about what happened. Focus on the situation, describe it, and stay objective. Give a reason why it's an issue and state the impact it had on the rest of the staff, the organization, or the customer.

When you stick with the facts, you can discuss them more easily. Being specific and clear assists the receiver in understanding the issue and what requires changes.

5. Collaborate to come up with ideas for improvement.
It's not up to you to come up with all the solutions by yourself - although you can offer suggestions that you think would be helpful. Make a point of involving the recipient in this crucial part of the feedback process. This way, the recipient has some ownership and involvement in decision-making, which will result in a greater commitment to see that it's implemented. Working together finds better ways of improving the situation and will likely create a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

Offering constructive feedback can seem like a daunting task. If it's approached with the good intention of making improvements and creating better situations, rather than criticizing and judging, it's positive input with beneficial results.
About the Author
Laurie Wilhelm is the author of Express Yourself to Success. This website and eGuides are designed to help you achieve success faster by using strong verbal communications skills. Achieve your success by working with others through improved social and interpersonal skills, public speaking, networking, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Find out how you can boost your career by going to www.expressyourselftosuccess.com.
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