5 Tips Giving Feedback to Others

5 tips for giving feedback to others

Often at coaching sessions with my clients, the topic of giving feedback to others comes up. New leaders especially find it difficult to give honest feedback as they are afraid they may “hurt” the other person’s feelings or their intentions may be misunderstood. So to avoid such situations, many of them do not share openly during feedback sessions or side-step the key issue during work discussions with their staff. While this may bring short-term relief, such a strategy can leave people feeling misunderstood or misjudged in the long run. It also does not resolve issues which may snowball over time.

Take the example of Sally (name has been changed to ensure anonymity). Sally is a middle manager who has many things on her to-do list. She also manages a team under her but is having some difficulty managing one of her staff. This particular staff is someone who is a strong team player and loves to help others in their projects but has trouble sticking to his own project timelines. So when Sally gets a progress update from him on his own projects, she often has to counter check on his facts and data from others. Needless to say this is time consuming for Sally and is a source of frustration. Furthermore, Sally’s boss does not have a very good opinion of Sally’s staff and would like Sally to give some feedback to him.

Sally has had work review conversations with her staff and had politely mentioned that he may be suited for other roles in the organisation. Her staff, not completely getting her hint, prefers to stay where he is as he enjoys the bond he has made with his colleagues. Sally’s struggle is that she feels that she is not able to be direct with her feedback and she is not someone who likes to confront others.

Here are 5 tips to consider when giving feedback :

1) Make a connection to the “why” of your feedback. Many times we get caught up with what feedback we need to give to someone and rehearse that in our minds. However, it is probably more important to focus on the intent of your feedback. Is it meant to help raise the other person’s self-awareness? Is it to highlight your predicament? Once you are clear about your intent, your words will flow as you will be speaking from your true authentic self.

2) Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. Just before you meet the person for feedback, pause and take 3 deep breaths. This pause will calm down your nerves and help to regulate your breathing. Many times we are unaware that our breathing is shallow or irregular and this can heighten anxiety within us. Our anxiety can cause us to be defensive or limit our ability to focus on the other person.

3) Spend most of the session asking questions. While you are giving feedback, you are also checking out assumptions you may have made about the person or their situation. Be curious, ask questions and listen. What is their perspective of the situation? What was the thinking behind their action? How did that experience resonate for them? What impact do they think they are having on others? What would their next developmental stretch be? How can you support them in their stretch?

4) If you have a point to make, make it – with compassion. Sometimes you may need to deliver unpleasant news during your feedback session. While uncomfortable for you, it is better to bite the bullet and say it with clarity and compassion. Take your time to explain, ask questions and allow the other person to respond. Ensure psychological safety for the person by setting aside undisturbed time and space for feedback.

5) Make sure you are given honest feedback regularly. Not only is this a great self-development method, but it also helps in building compassion in us. Most people may get feedback from their direct supervisor which is useful and necessary. However, I feel that it may not be sufficient for a holistic view of your personal development. If possible, arrange a mutual feedback system with a trusted colleague or friend. It may help if you are specific to them on what they should look out for when giving you feedback and you could do the same for them.

If you try out any of the tips above, do let me know how it went for you 🙂

What would you add as a tip for giving feedback?
What is your biggest challenge in giving feedback?
How has your experience been when receiving feedback?