The Philosopher’s Stone of an Efficient Feedback
Great communication isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what other people hear.
Throughout the history of humankind, there’ve been said tons of things about feedback. Giving recipient-friendly feedback is definitely a buzz topic nowadays.
Manuals are written, TEDx talks are being conducted… and still, we see some mystery haze around giving quality feedback. Still, unanswered Qs are all the same:
- What kind of feedback should we give?
- How often should we provide our fellow colleagues with feedback?
- How not to hurt while sharing your feedback?
Let’s admit it, once in a while, we wish our working routines were more productive; for instance, why not to make those meetings go faster and deliver the reports less frequent. Believe it or not, this all is worth sharing as feedback. The ultimate question is how to build an efficient and loyal one?
In this article, we’re figuring out the most productive mind tools for structuring your feedback as well as give answers to the questions from above.
Do we need feedback at all? The answer couldn’t be more positive as it is.
We need feedback to succeed and become the most efficient version of ourselves. Once in a while everyone should wear both hats, the hat of a recipient and the hat of a feedback provider. So, what are our dos and don’ts of crafting effective feedback?
Feedback gurus have their own opinions on what’s important when giving feedback.
To start with, we want to recall the most conventional approach ever – the feedback sandwich. If you’ve forgotten or simply never knew what the feedback sandwich is, this is a strategy of delivering feedback by starting with nice and positive anything-what-doesn’t-really-matter, then inserting a real piece of criticism inside your sandwich, and finishing with the most flattering words ever.
Don’ts. The major flaw of the feedback sandwich is that it’s kind of superficial. We also believe the approach makes a receiver feel the flavor of cynicism afterward, even if the feedback giver is a master of crafting feedback sandwiches.
Dos. What we should inherit from that “grumpy” sandwich is the need for a structure; namely, strategic approach. Whom are you going to talk to? What’s more and less important to share? In what relations are you with the person you’re sharing your feedback? How much time have you got for that? Answering these questions will help you get ready with a preliminary strategy.
Situation – Behavior – Impact Model
Many people apply SBI tool for giving feedback. The method is based on a simple situation-behavior-impact model. Basically, the strategy here is to start with describing a situation, then one should address some particular behavior and as a result, share how that behavior has influenced others.
Example. Let’s dive into a practical example of the SBI approach. Imagine one of your colleagues saying: “During yesterday’s all-hands meeting, you didn’t show a fact sheet about our last initiative. I feel a bit uncomfortable about that. This lack of reporting could have shown our department an irresponsible and spendy one.”
Dos. Share your feedback only when a situation and one’s behavior have been already described, providing you’ve decided to follow this strategy. This approach gives people a clearer understanding of the problem and the true impact of their behavior on others. This could bring mutual understanding.
“Managing for happiness” book by Jurgen Apello sheds light on another approach to feedback. The author’s even coined a term for it, which is “feedback wrap”. According to the feedback wrap, the smart list to consider when sharing your thoughts should include:
- Context description
- State and circumstances update
- Expressing one’s observations and emotions
- Feeding the recipient with suggestions
What’s really different in this feedback method is sticking to more and less valuable notions. The critical comments come first, the less important ones follow. Finally, relevant suggestions close the deal.
Example. Practically speaking, your feedback speech may look as follows. “I’ve just arrived from kindergarten. The weather is horrible. Anyway, I’ve had a look at your report. I feel like you’ve missed the plan we were talking about at retrospective. Do you think I should resend it to you? Also, I spotted different font, not our corporate one; and it always makes me sad when we don’t use it as we’ve paid a fortune for the brand book. Finally, I can detect a misspelling of our GMO’s name. Could you please correct that?”
Dos. If to evaluate pros of this approach created by Jurgen Apello, they are numerous. A simple design is one of the most delicious ingredients of your feedback, it’s also human-oriented as the tough thoughts are being built around what counts the most important.
Efficient Feedback Elements
Above mentioned elements of an efficient feedback, formula recurs in some other approaches as well. For instance, Nonviolent Communication Center suggests starting with observations, feelings come next, and needs and requests wrap it up. “I noticed you weren’t listening to my ideas during the last 3 meetings. This makes me feel discouraged. I need your awareness. Could you pay more attention to my ideas next time?” Folks around the globe tend to follow these insights.
Timing. Another important thing to consider when giving feedback is timing. They say, revenge is better served cold, but we can’t use that rule for feedback sharing. It’s suggested not to wait until the performance evaluation day or one-on-ones if those are planned one month ahead.
The timing advice we like is to send your peer an email with some needed feedback straight away. Assuming not all feedback should be critical, a couple of positive words, a dash of appreciation or a compliment on a regular basis can also do magic and cheer up the atmosphere in both work and personal relations.
Objectivity is the key
We’ve covered the layout, let’s talk about key fillers now. One should never forget that “feedback” and “truth” are not even brothers regarding the meaning of these two. Truth is never purely objective due to the fact that the person, who believes it, withdraws his or her perception from a personal viewpoint. To apply this to giving objective feedback, let’s compare two statements: “your presentation is boring” and “your presentation made me feel bored”. Have you spotted the difference?
It is usually not so discouraging for a feedback recipient if the feedback provider tries not to speak from the point of expert (even though if she/he considers herself/himself the one) but from the point of a friendly person. This will help your colleague see not a robot monster with sky-high self-esteem but a loyal person who is willing to help.
Another advantage of sharing your perspective when giving feedback is that it allows seeing the other side of a coin (read: understand others). For example, “Your last email made me feel ready for action. How did you come up with the game-changer in the last paragraph?”. And another one here: “What I feel is that our last meeting made us distanced from one another, I fear we might still be on different pages”.
To sum up our insights, always remember about crafting a structure for your feedback when preparing the speech, keep your tone as loyal as possible, list observations and not evaluations, describe your personal feelings, offer possible suggestions and a hand of friendly support.
- 1. Craft a well-structured feedback
In this article, we’ve mentioned many approaches to the structure choice. Although, these elements of good feedback seem to be repetitive in suggestions developed by different authors: describe a situation, give updates, share personal emotions, lead to possible solutions, share your suggestions and needs.
- 2. Follow a help-oriented approach
The main tip-and-trick is to act from a perspective of help and empathy, which is gold. People usually feel our intents and if we deliver a promise of assistance, they might accept the feedback more openly.
When talking about something, we should clearly see the line between our observations and our evaluations. “You are always late” and “You have been late 3 times this week” are very different messages. Having a little sync with yourself – Did I really see that? Did it happen or I’m just judging the person and generalizing? – usually helps to share observations and not evaluations.
- 3. Keep inside the friendliest context
Another thing which is worth mentioning is our tone. Harsh feedback won’t help anyone, even the most critical remarks should be delivered with respect and care. Although a lot of people know this already, sometimes it is quite difficult not to lose one’s temper. Take a moment to build your structure, have a couple of deep breaths and remember that you are interacting with a real person, and your main aim is to help the person in reaching better results.
The most difficult peak conquered, we are finally ready to provide requests and suggestions. The hint here is to be as specific as you can. By doing so, a clearer and broader common understanding could be reached.
- 4. Adhere a guiding role
Ninja approach in giving feedback is not only to help but sort of lead the person to a solution. Psychologically, it’s rewarding for the receiver to be led to the solution she/he can come up with herself/himself. Namely, after you notice a problem, try not to tell a person how to fix it, instead, you should be asking questions that can guide to the problem-solving decision.
- 5. Respect your timing
How much feedback is enough? Dave Bailey recommends sticking to 40-words rule. Yep, simply word-count your speech draft. The approach equips to stay precise, save time and get better results for both parties.
N.B. Remember — the crucial ingredient of any good feedback is a spoon of empathy added to a bowl of problem-solving guidance. Enjoy your delicious feedback!