Feedback is vital for improvement for anyone, be it an employee or a leader, but, to get the most out of feedback, you need to know how to communicate it well. As they say, communication is key. They’re not wrong.
So, how can you communicate feedback well?
Make Sure They Want to Learn
Whoever is receiving feedback needs to want that feedback and have a desire to learn from it if it’s going to be of any use. Communicating feedback to employees is all about learning, but the receiver controls the learning environment. This means that they have to want to learn how to take feedback in order to be successful.
The receiver must perceive a need for feedback. If the receiver already thinks they know it all, then they won’t be ready to learn from you. Let them create their own need by failing a couple of times first.
It’s your job to make sure they’re in this mindset when you give them feedback. If they’re not, giving them feedback is just a waste of time. Wait until they’re ready to hear it.
Give the Feedback in Multiple Forms
Feedback can either be written or verbal. It can be very effective to use both. You can give them a mix of clear and concise written feedback while verbally communicating comments about where they can improve along with areas they should continue as they are.
That’s just one way to do it, though. You need to figure out what works best for you while tailoring it to the needs of the receiver. That’s how you make the most out of feedback.
Clarify With a Scale
Scoring each area of your feedback with a scale also works well to communicate and clarify the feedback to the receiver.
Make sure you’re sure of your scores here. They have to be thought out and chosen wisely. Feedback has to be accurate, showing how you observed them closely and made good written mental notes. Otherwise, no one is going to take your feedback seriously.
Make Your Feedback Exact
Describe what happened, but don’t make only general comments when giving feedback. It is much better to say exactly what was done well, or what could be improved upon. By providing specific examples, the receiver knows exactly where to focus their efforts in order to improve.
Don’t just assume people know what you’re talking about or that they’ll read between the lines. You have to be clear, even if that means you’re being blunt. People much prefer knowing exactly what they did wrong rather than being aware that you’re upset with them without being sure what, exactly, it is that they did wrong.
Give Positive Feedback, Too
As a general rule, people enjoy getting positive feedback and don’t like hearing too much negative feedback. Providing positive feedback shows support of their efforts and fosters more open learning.
Often, when you address someone’s strengths, the flip side is a weakness that they then notice on their own. Start your feedback with positive statements. Once they hear that, they’ll be much more inclined to actively listen to you.
A good rule to follow is, for each negative, give them two positives that they should maintain.
Ensure It’s Understood
When communicating feedback, keep in mind that the message delivered isn’t always the message received. Check in with the receiver to ensure that they understood you correctly, even if this requires them to repeat their understanding of what you said.
Not only does all this ensure that you are both on the same page, but it also helps make sure the feedback sinks in. When the receiver states that they agree with your feedback, you know they’ve absorbed it. If the receiver disagrees or is confused with any of the feedback, discuss it further until they are clear on it.
Great leadership knows how important communicating feedback is. Without it, your employees, you, and your company are at a standstill. Communicating feedback correctly is the key to improvement!
Do you have any tips on giving and receiving feedback? Let us know in the comments below!
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2011 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.