What is feedback? Whether it be from a personal trainer, professional mentor, supervisor or even a parent or friend, feedback is THE platform in which we grow. As humans, it’s hard to believe that we are not perfect. But news flash – we are most certainly not. We are in fact all growing, living and evolving beings, whom should strive to be the best versions of ourselves. And that’s where feedback comes in.
In a professional setting, feedback must be consistent and delivered properly in order to get better at what we do. Through the years, I’ve recognized there are two distinctive types of feedback:
Constructive – this is the best and most productive kind of feedback. While it might not be the greatest news at the end of the day, it is positioned in a way that is well-reasoned and friendly. The purpose of constructive feedback is to improve the outcome and instill confidence. You are good enough and can do this!
Destructive – this kind of feedback is demoralizing and can actually end up doing more harm than good. This kind of feedback typically leaves the receiver feeling defeated and unmotivated, with no clear expectations on next steps or helpful ways to improve the outcome.
While giving and receiving constructive feedback may take some practice, use these three S’s as a guide:
Specific – Do not be delayed in your delivery of feedback. Use specific examples (e.g. “In a recent email, you said xyz…”), and most importantly, keep them tactical in nature as it relates to the job. This is not the time to talk about someone’s bad hair day. Because let’s be honest, we’ve all been there, and frankly, that just isn’t nice.
Sincere – Regardless of how tough the feedback is to give, do be kind in nature. The feedback should be meaningful and useful to the person.
Say what and how the person can change – if you’re looking for better use of AP style, direct them to the bookshelf where they can find the office AP stylebook or online resources.
And when the time comes to share feedback that that will motivate and encourage positive change, make sure you do the following first:
Prepare – having your thoughts organized will set you up for a successful and clear delivery of your thoughts. Bring an outline of your three S’s to avoid getting too hot in your discussion.
Sandwich method – this is one of the strongest approaches. Provide the receiver with a positive attribute or what they might have done correctly, show them the ways they can improve, but always end on a positive note by saying, “overall, this was a great start.”
Develop an action plan – this is great for annual or biannual reviews at your office. Work with your direct supervisor on the best next steps that you can work on to make yourself a better professional. More often than not, they have resources and examples that will support your improvement, as they want you to be the best you can be.
Follow-up – we can all certainly be better at this. After giving feedback, outline the receiver’s efforts to ensure everyone is on the same page. As the giver, commit yourself to being available for questions and support.
When the tables turn and you find yourself on the receiving end of feedback, keep these best practices in mind:
Don’t take it personally – while it might be difficult to hear tough feedback at first, remove yourself from the emotions associated with it and remind yourself that the intention of this feedback is to make you a better and stronger person and professional.
Listen first, then ask questions – without practice, you’ve likely tuned out based on the aforementioned defensiveness. Your head is spinning with thoughts like, “I most certainly did not do this, blah blah blah…” By hearing the full thought initially, you’re better positioned for asking the strongest, most helpful questions. No reason to not speak up at the time it is most fresh.
Be appreciative – thank the person providing you feedback for their candor. It was likely just as difficult for them to provide as it was for you to receive. But if provided in the appropriate method, this feedback can be the gift that keeps on giving, and provide you learnings that can last a lifetime.