How to get the most out of feedback

Feedback sign beside postbox

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Feedback is an important part of learning. It is an important part of two-way relationships. It is also one of the hardest things to give and take. Here are some tips to help.

Feedback can bring out the best and worst in us. Why is that? Is it because it takes us back to school days and good/bad experiences acquired there? Or, is it because people take it personally? Well – possibly both.

Feedback is important for giving attention to the contributions people make. It is a way of checking for understanding of expectations and performance requirements. These tips apply to both givers and receivers of feedback.

Know the criteria
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it is not always clear.  Criteria need to be articulated clearly in terms of specific results or observable behaviours that demonstrate the mastery required. The feedback can then be framed around how close the person comes to the expected outcomes – which is useful when giving or receiving feedback.

Focus on three outcomes
Choose three or ask for three specific outcomes to focus on.Most people can remember and articulate three things with ease, making it easier to maintain a focus. Ask for details about how these are being achieved or what more needs to be done to attain mastery.  Clarify specifics by asking questions like “What would it take to achieve x level/outcome?”

Tie feedback to outcomes
By tying feedback to outcomes, links it to its purpose and meaning. Whether positive or constructive feedback, when framed in terms of the impact the individual’s performance has on the business outcomes or goals enables them to get a greater sense of their contribution. It provides the reason for the feedback. This is far more valuable than vague platitudes like “you did well”. Feedback tied to outcomes makes it more likely the behaviour or results will be repeated or attained.

Equalise assessments by referring to technical skills and competencies
When objective skills/competencies are used in assessments it is easier to notice when something is missing. Ensure that evidence reflects an equal assessment of candidates. If there is no evidence of particular skill or competence levels, absence is the evidence. Development can then be guided towards achieving or developing the required technical expertise.

Feedback conversations handled well can strengthen relationships and understanding between people who work together.  It is also critical to high performance.

What is your experience of giving or receiving feedback? Do you have pearls of wisdom to share here?

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