The ability to give feedback is one of the most important skills you will need to develop.  It will enable you to correct errors, standardise procedures and develop people.  For the recipient it can be a powerful, and revelatory, insight into how people perceive them. It should be seen as part of the process of continuing professional development (CPD) to support individuals with their own perspectives and personal development.

Many line managers see giving feedback in terms of “telling people off” or as an unpleasant task to be carried out once a year when the performance review is completed.  It need not be any of these things.  In fact the real purpose of feedback is very different.

What Is The Purpose Of Feedback?

Feedback is a way of helping others to see themselves as you see them.  It helps to make them more aware of themselves, their limitations and development needs.   Done well it can motivate people to improve their performance, to change the way they operate.  Done badly it can lead to resistance, rejection or lack of self-esteem.  Obviously, to avoid these problems feedback must be given skillfully.

The objective of feedback should be:

  •  Ownership of the feedback by the recipient
  •  A commitment to change, where appropriate
  • Some contracting of an action plan for implementation, where appropriate

When and Where Do You Give Feedback?

In a timely manner.  It needs to be linked strongly with the behaviour that has to be changed or has caused concern.

A general rule when you are giving feedback is – the sooner the better.  The only qualification on this is to pick a time when both you and the receiver are in a suitable frame of mind.

Feedback ideally should be given face to face, it at all possible, however, with the use of technology and online professional and personal development there is an increasing need to give instant feedback through the use of social media.  Whilst this can be appropriate and powerful, you also need to be aware of how the written word can be interpreted and taken out of context.  So make sure you set the ground rules and have clear expectations and make comments private, as feedback is personal.  Although feedback in the form of praise and recommendation can have a major impact on the person and/or company if shared online.

Feedback can be of two types:

  1. Feedback to tell someone that what they are doing is unacceptable or to enlighten them about an area for development.  (Negative feedback).
  2. Feedback to tell someone when they have done a good job or to highlight their strengths.  (Positive feedback).

In either case, feedback must be constructive.  Good practice is to  give both types whenever they are appropriate… often termed the praise sandwich. Praise / feedback on what they need to change / praise.

If however, you want to influence them to change their behaviour, you need to make it clear to them what outcomes have arisen as a result of their behaviour and what is the required behaviour and the consequences of not adopting the new behaviour.  This must be the actual observable effect, not your interpretation of what it might be or what the gossips have said. Adding your feelings to such feedback, where appropriate, makes your message more powerful and potentially more successful in bringing about change.


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