Giving and Receiving Productive Feedback that Encourages Growth

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Every day spent with other people presents the opportunity for giving and receiving productive feedback.  And both instances not only encourage growth of self-awareness and character, but they also offer others involved a lot of information about your character.

Opportunities for Information Sharing

Many employers are either skipping quarterly and annual reviews or supplementing them with scheduled feedback sessions.  These meetings with managers and supervisors keep employees informed of their performance and goal setting on an ongoing basis.  It also eliminates surprises during any formal review.

Personal growth doesn’t only exist in professional life.  There are many opportunities for giving and receiving productive feedback outside of work.

  • In situations with family and friends
  • As a student or educator
  • In volunteer organizations and other project work

Information shared in your personal life may not be presented as formally as it is in a professional setting, but it is just as valuable and deserves just as much of your attention.

A Method for Giving and Receiving Productive Feedback

The most effective feedback comes from those who approach the task with empathy and understanding, focusing on behaviors instead of personal characteristics.  There will always be an element of judgment in any form of feedback, but when expressed with a genuine desire to help, even the most negative critique can inspire.

Understand your why. Is it your job as a manager or supervisor to provide feedback to an employee?  Did you notice a colleague’s actions during a sales meeting that caused concern with a customer? Have you observed a behavior change in a friend or family member?

Perform an attitude check.  Are you angry with the person to whom you will give feedback? Can you approach it as an observer who wants to help someone?

Ask for permission.  There are several ways to do this based on the situation.  Even if you have scheduled a feedback session with an employee, asking for permission to share information have gathered makes room for that person to accept what you will tell them.

  • “Can we talk about some specific things I’ve observed over the past few months?”
  • “When you have a moment, could we discuss your conversation with XYZ Corporation?”
  • “I know this may be sensitive, but might I share some thoughts on how you treated your brother at Thanksgiving dinner?”
  • “If you’d like to talk about it, I have some thoughts I can share with you.”

Be specific.  Sharing information in general terms leaves room for misunderstanding the point you are trying to make.  When you present praise or criticism for something specific, speaking in past tense, the person listening can immediately recall what you are referring to and connect that situation as positive or negative.

  • “I’m concerned that you are the only salesperson not submitting weekly reports for the past three weeks.”
  • “It came as a shock that you told your brother he is a failure during a holiday meal.”
  • “We all appreciate how you jumped in to take care of clients who were feeling neglected when half of our staff were out recovering from COVID.”

Describe the impact.  When someone hears how a behavior affects other people or contributes to a situation, even more of a connection is made in their understanding of it.

  • “A lack of reporting not only makes my job more difficult, but it also makes upper management question the entire team’s effectiveness.”
  • “Your words hurt your brother and they were also hurtful to your parents and others at the dinner table.  It made our Thanksgiving awkward and uncomfortable.”
  • “Your efforts helped increase customer satisfaction and made your coworkers’ workload easier upon their return.”

Ask for input.  Turn the table and ask for the feedback recipient’s opinion.  This not only lets you know where they stand but can help them move forward with a goal in mind.

  • “How would you suggest improving our reporting structure?”
  • “Is there some way I can help this situation between you and your brother?”
  • “Could you share some suggestions on how we might create processes for future situations when customer service is at risk?”

When receiving feedback that is not clear or borders on offensive, you can redirect it using the steps above.  Maintaining a calm, pleasant demeanor will help the person providing the ineffective feedback to rethink their approach and reword their opinions.

Your careful and direct phrasing demonstrates thoughtfulness and respect for the person in the current situation.  You are looking outside of yourself to the bigger picture and placing attention on the true context of the situation.  You are also showing your confidence that things can improve.

A Respectful Approach

A healthy respect for giving and receiving productive feedback can improve and enrich your relationships and can increase performance levels.  When others understand your approach of using information constructively and for the purpose of growth and improvement, they no longer dread it.  They will know that you create a safe space for honest relationships.

You may also enjoy reading . . .