3 Steps to deliver effective feedback

3 Steps to deliver effective feedback

Have you ever been on the receiving end of bad feedback?

Feedback delivered poorly can make us feel demotivated, angry, scared or upset.

Constructive feedback, however, is crucial for our development and growth, but not everyone is skilled in how to deliver it effectively. Feedback that’s rushed or not thought through can cause an emotional and defensive reaction. It can also mean the feedback usually isn’t taken on board.

If you need to give someone feedback you might be feeling nervous or stressed, which is normal. But the good news is that there are easy ways to make it an effective conversation.

Whether it’s for your boss, colleague or friend – there are three key steps you can follow to deliver feedback in the right way.

Preparation is Key

The most important step is to take the time to prepare your what you are going to say first. Think through what the specific feedback is, and write it down objectively. Focus on the facts, have clear evidence and keep blaming or judgment statements out.

A great technique to use is ‘I statements’ to explain how their actions or behaviours has affected you, which reduces the blame element. For example: “I feel ____ when you ____ because ____. I would like ____.”

Think through how the person may feel or react about receiving the feedback, and tailor it for them. Also match your own natural conversation style.

Writing down a discussion outline in bullet point can also help you stay on track during the discussion. But be careful to not rely on it too much, as you may sound scripted or like a robot.

It’s important to be clear about the feedback, but not too fluffy as the message might get lost and be confusing. Equally, if it’s too direct and harsh, it can also cause a defensive response. Be balanced in your feedback and include both positive and constructive elements where appropriate. 

When and Where

Be timely with your feedback. It’s hard to give feedback once too much time has passed. It’s less relevant and people will find it hard to remember. Remember that no surprises is the best approach.

Location is also important. Feedback is usually best delivered in private to respect people’s dignity – not on the floor in front of the team. Also be mindful of rooms with clear walls or windows so you don’t have an audience.

Timing – Friday afternoon is the worst time to deliver feedback, as the receiver could then spend the entire weekend thinking about the conversation. Pick your day and time carefully, and be mindful that they may need some time after the feedback to regroup. 

During the Conversation

  • Introduce the purpose of the conversation so that the person is prepared to receive feedback. There’s nothing worse than getting feedback out of the blue in an informal conversation.
  • Manage your emotions – stay calm and in control to avoid the session escalating. Focus on the feedback and the specifics, and try not to react emotionally yourself.
  • Keep your body language, voice and facial expressions neutral. If the person becomes angry or upset, stay calm and focused on your feedback in a thoughtful way. Having tissues already in the room is always a good tip.
  • Provide constructive solutions or alternatives of what they should do instead next time. Be specific and not ambiguous, otherwise it is open to interpretation.

Finally, ask if they need help or are experiencing any challenges. You never know what someone might be going through personally or professionally. This may lead to a productive conversation that may uncover issues that you could help them with.

Delivering feedback in a positive and respectful way can lead to improved performance and better working relationships. It can benefit both the giver and the receiver, and promotes growth.

It takes practice to deliver effective feedback. Don’t rush straight into giving feedback, and instead think through how you would like to receive it yourself.  Keep using the tips above and you’ll find giving feedback easier over time.

Michelle Robb

Michelle Robb is a Career Coach, writer and speaker who is passionate about empowering corporate women to build a career and life that they LOVE! With an Advanced Diploma in Management, a Certified Life Coach and over 15 years experience in leadership roles, Michelle has coached and mentored hundreds of women in places such as Optus, Telstra, Macquarie Bank and through her own business, Michelle Robb Coaching. When Michelle is not helping women find happiness and success, she can usually be found with her friends and family, eating delicious food and coffee, and then burning it off on the Coogee to Bondi walk!


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