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Giving Constructive Feedback

Giving feedback is a fundamental part of the process of leading people towards behaviour and performance that are appropriate to any given situation.  It can be defined as:

‘Information about performance or behaviour that leads to an action to affirm or develop that performance or behaviour’

We receive feedback constantly in a number of ways; informally – people reacting to us, formally – from our superiors, clients, colleagues, on training courses and from our environment.

Feedback is essential for us to learn and grow.  It provides us with opportunities to vary or amend our approach, produce better results, enhance our performance, enhance relationships and aids communication.

Why Bother with Constructive Feedback?

It allows managers to successfully motivate and develop their staff

It allows coaches and advisors to succeed in improving

It allows trainers to effectively impart skills that are transferred into the workplace

It allows mentors to release potential

It allows people to be effective team members

Constructive Feedback v Destructive Criticism

There is a fundamental difference between constructive feedback and destructive criticism.  Constructive feedback provides information about behaviour and performance against objective standards in such a way that recipients maintain a positive attitude towards themselves and their work.  It encourages recipients to commit themselves to a personal plan to move towards agreed standards or performance and behaviour

Destructive criticism on the other hand tends to dominate only when things go wrong or there are no agreed standards against which to measure performance or behaviour.  Destructive criticism is often personal and subjective, for example, I don’t like your attitude’. 

Constructive feedback should be given as close to the event as possible and in private. You must also consider the recipients ability to handle feedback – your method and communication style need to reflect this.  Positive feedback should be given in public arena.

Barriers to Giving Constructive Feedback

Some barriers to giving and receiving feedback include surprise or shock on the part of the recipient, differing perceptions of expectations and no clear objectives.  Poor personal relationships between people may result in feedback being perceived as criticism, particularly if the  person giving feedback is not be qualified to be giving the feedback!

Some other barriers include previous feedback being of a negative nature, this may create the perception that all feedback is going to be negative.  People are often afraid of giving feedback in case it damages relationships but if the feedback is provided in a fact based, objective way, this should not occur.

The 10 basic rules for giving constructive feedback are:

1. Analyse the current situation thoroughly; are you the right person to be giving this feedback?

2. Decide on your outcome(s) and objective(s) which should be:

  • Positive

  • Specific

  • Achievable

  • Measurable

  • Realistic

  • Worthwhile

  • Set within a timescale

3. Assess the recipients’ capacity for receiving feedback

4. Create the right environment; praise in public, constructive feedback in private

5. Communicate effectively, ensure your approach is appropriate and reflects the person and situation

6. Describe the behaviour you wish to change, be clear about what you want to change/happen

7. Describe the behaviour that you want, be clear about what the outcome is to be

8. Seek solutions together, communicate effectively, compromise, aim for win-win

9. Focus on what is good, don’t dwell on the negative

10. Feedback is like a gift, people choose to accept it, or not

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