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Feedback: How to Give It Properly

No matter how difficult it may be to hear the truth, everybody wants to know it. But we humans are contradictory beings because we don’t look on those occasions with much pleasure, even though we want a direct and honest feedback.

Nevertheless, it is an essential part of our personal and business development. It helps us maximize our potential, raise awareness of areas for improvement, and shows us our strengths and weaknesses. Without feedback from others, it’s difficult for both leaders and employees to be self-aware and enrich their self-knowledge.

Why is feedback important?
Even though it is the most powerful and cheapest management tool leaders have at their disposal. It is also the most underused and underrated. Feedback serves as a guide to help people to know what they and others think of their performance. It has strong links to employee productivity and satisfaction and can be highly energizing and motivating. But when they receive little or no feedback, employees tend to be self-critical or self-congratulatory because they start to rely upon events instead on specific feedback when perceiving their impact and performance.

How can leaders organize their feedback flow?
Feedback sometimes might be a problem. It all depends on how prepared you are and who, how, when and where you ask for it. In order to organize your feedback so you get and give the most honest opinions, there are certain guidelines to follow.

  • Make them feel comfortable. Your feedback can ultimately be unproductive if the employee receiving it doesn’t feel comfortable. Aim to create stronger relationships with your employees or colleagues that allow you to say anything to each other. You are a leader, but also a human being. This will create opportunities to build skills and confidence.
  • Be specific. People respond better to specific direction. Don’t provide generalized and ambiguous feedback but say positive and specific pointed things. For example, instead of saying “You need to talk more in meetings,” say “I like how you think. I’d like to hear more opinions from you in every meeting we’re in together.”
  • Be positive. Positive feedback is known to stimulate the reward centers in the brain. It leaves us open to taking a different direction. Negative feedback indicates turns on the threat response, so the recipient goes into defensive mode. Don’t avoid negative feedback but follow it with a possible solution. Provide at least as much positive feedback as you do negative.
  • Be immediate and tough. If you want the feedback to be productive, give it frequently and don’t wait. Also, don’t be mean by saying how stupid someone’s actions were (even if they were), but start by asking their perspective on the situation.
  • Use technology. HR instruments, such as surveys and interviews, can be supplemented with some technological help. You can use it to gather data, employ professional help to analyze and assess it, share it with your manager or get coaching.

The importance of feedback is immeasurable. Once you understand how to get and provide it effectively, you’ll also need to turn it into action. Work to develop your skills of giving praise and criticism. Positive feedback shows your employees that you’re on their team, while criticism tells them what they can improve to help the entire team prosper.

Jan Kwint

Jan Kwint is founder of and CEO of LTP. Through his work as an Executive and Consultant he has developed a strong interest in how a feedback culture can help develop individuals and teams. This is also part of a book he recently published on Psychology and Agility: ‘Ik ben Erica!’ (I am Erica!).

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