As part of your role, do you provide feedback? Delivering feedback is truly an art form that requires conscientious thought regarding desired outcomes and the care it deserves. Equally important is the attention we give to receiving feedback in the most effective manner. We’ll explore the art of giving constructive feedback in this blog.

Tough love

Most of us have likely experienced poorly delivered feedback and may have unknowingly done the same. This often happens when the person giving feedback lacks the necessary training in providing constructive and considerate feedback, which can deeply impacting – for all the wrong reasons.

In the past, the art of constructive feedback was sometimes overlooked, and individuals had to endure it in a “tough love” approach. Fortunately, this perspective is now outdated as businesses realise the significance of taking care of their employees. Neglecting to provide feedback with care and due diligence can lead employees to rightfully take their talents elsewhere, leaving businesses exposed and vulnerable.

The art of giving feedback is a skill

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that good leaders cultivate, taking the time to learn how to deliver it effectively. All feedback, regardless of its sensitivity, can be received in a positive manner if delivered with care and the right delivery.

Good leaders make it a point to gather feedback from team members and colleagues to understand their strengths and identify areas for improvement. Problems arise when feedback is given without consulting others and is solely based on one person’s opinion, as it can become personal due to clashes in personalities or favouritism.

Tools to help with constructing feedback conversations

The term “feedback” naturally carries negative connotations, often evoking nerves and worry. However, it is the responsibility of leaders to reassure others that feedback can also be positive. It is crucial to give equal attention to both positive and constructive feedback. Fortunately, there are numerous helpful tools available to assist in the process of giving and receiving feedback. Methods that I often refer to have a straightforward approach but convey valuable insights.:

Uncovering an issue e.g. ongoing performance or workload balance: Context, Examples, Diagnosis, Actions and Review

Behaviour driven e.g. behavioural impact on others: Behaviour, Understand, Impact, Listen and Do differently

In the moment e.g. action out of context or giving praise: Balanced, Observed, Objective, Specific and Timely

Be concise, kind, constructive and empathetic

When providing feedback, there are key attributes to keep in mind: be concise, kind, constructive and empathetic. While it may sound simple, it is surprising how often people get it wrong, resorting to rudeness, dismissiveness, and judgement. Such approaches can leave individuals feeling disheartened and undervalued. To provide effective feedback, it is essential to maintain a professional demeanour, clearly communicate your points with illustrative examples, and suggest actionable plans for addressing any issues while providing support. Additionally, remember to acknowledge achievements, celebrate successes, and initiate the feedback session with a positive tone.

Behaviours and emotions

Also, it is important to be aware of the emotional impact that someone’s behaviour can have on others. Take into consideration whether their actions are making other team members uncomfortable or if there are any underlying neurodivergent factors that need to be understood and addressed. These aspects should be explained clearly, sensitively, authentically and in a timely way.

Likewise, when receiving feedback, it is crucial to have confidence in oneself, be open to the discussion, and remain composed. If someone becomes highly emotional during a feedback session, it is often a reflection of the person delivering the feedback rather than the recipient. Leaders and managers must ensure that their messages and delivery are both kind and professional.

10 top tips for giving constructive feedback

  1. Be concise, kind, constructive, and empathetic in your delivery
  2. Don’t spring someone on the fly with difficult feedback – choose your time and place
  3. Establish the facts before the meeting as there are usually other factors to consider – was someone’s behaviour or missed deadline down to a lack of available resource in the team?
  4. Provide clear examples and suggested plans for improvement – agree on next steps, when to check in next, other resources available if needed
  5. When someone deserves praise, be specific too – not just “you’re doing great”
  6. Begin the session on a positive note and give credit where it’s due – the project might have gone really well in general, so don’t just focus on what didn’t work out
  7. Consider the emotional impact of the behaviour being addressed
  8. Be authentic and address any neurodivergence sensitively
  9. Ensure your messaging and delivery are kind and professional
  10. Avoid the shi*t sandwich – delivering a compliment, unpleasant feedback, then a compliment to finish it off – it’s outdated and can lead to a lack of clarity over next steps

Remember, the art of giving constructive feedback requires practice and continuous learning. Embrace the opportunity to grow and help others succeed through effective feedback.

There is much more to talk about on feedback, but this is a starter to get you thinking about it. I would love to hear your experiences and impressions, so please share your thoughts and get in touch.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash