First, we need to understand what feedback is. It is helpful information we give someone so they can improve. It is given on behaviour and action.
Types of Feedback
You can give general positive feedback. For example, just saying good job.
Then there is general negative feedback which would be saying I didn’t like that.
When we give general feedback we are letting the person know how we feel but not what they can do to take the behaviour of action. They won’t be able to understand where to put the effort or what next steps to take.
That is why it is important to be specific. Specific feedback allows the other person to feel appreciated. They will appreciate that you took the time out and actually paid attention. If we say good job it doesn’t necessarily mean we listened.
If we say something specific like Good job on the presentation I liked how slow you spoke as it allowed me to take in the information. This is specific feedback and the person knows what they are good at. The feedback would mean more to them because it is not generalized.
Now think about a time when someone said good job to you. How did that make you feel?
Now think of a time when someone told you that you did a good job but then added specifically what they liked about what you did. How did that make you feel?
Now even though it has the word negative in it that is not something bad. This is what we call constructive criticism. Just saying oh I didn’t like that will just make them feel bad and they won’t know how to improve. What is the point of knowing something is generally bad. If we are specific when giving negative feedback it becomes a learning experience.
For example, if someone is giving a presentation telling them if they spoke slower it would be easier to take in the information. That is something that can help the other person improve their presentation.
I used to hate hearing negative specific feedback. It used to feel like a personal attack on myself. But I realized I had to de-attach myself from the feedback. The feedback was about my behaviour, not me. I realized it was a learning opportunity. When I took it as that I appreciated it.
When we don’t give someone honest negative feedback we are robbing them of the learning opportunity and improvement.
My manager used to always at my performance assessment say good job. She would sometimes be specific about how I was doing a good job but she never told me what I was missing. I obviously came out of the meetings thinking I am doing great no need for improvement. 3 years down the line I was still stuck in the same position. My manager just telling me I was doing a good job hadn’t been doing me any favours. I had no idea I needed to improve and put in the effort.
Then my manager changed and she told me I needed to help other people, I need to be more social and I need to ask for work that is going above and beyond. She had told me my weaknesses and where I can improve. I now had a framework on how to improve. That is what I did I followed the framework and I got a promotion. I was able to achieve my goals.
I promised myself that I would never be a leader that doesn’t give specific feedback. Because giving the general positive feedback is easy to take and give. But no one is learning anything from it.
So, if you are like me and couldn’t take feedback next time you get it think ‘what can I learn from this?’
If you are in a position where you are supposed to give feedback think ‘will the other person learn from this?’ and if I don’t give it to them ‘am I making them miss out on a learning opportunity.’
Brené Brown has a checklist on feedback. She believes in the idea that when giving feedback you can tell people what they are good at and how they can use those strengths to overcome challenges.
Questions to ask yourself about feedback
- Am I being specific?
- What can the person take away from this?
- If I don’t give them the feedback will they miss out on improving?
- Can I tell them how to use their strengths to overcome challenges?
- What would I want if I was in their position?
Reflect on a moment you could have given feedback or gotten it and ask yourself the above questions.