Giving Meaningful Feedback

We all give feedback to others in the workplace. The feedback may be directed toward your manager, a team member, a direct report, or anyone else you work with on a regular basis. It is important to follow certain guidelines in order for the feedback to resonate:

1.Timely: The feedback should be as close to the observed situation, event, or behavior as possible, preferably within 24 hours. If this is not possible, then within one week would be the longest I would wait. If the time lapse is too great, the feedback receiver may not recall the situation and the feedback may not be helpful. Another timing aspect to consider is what may be going on in the person’s personal life. If the person just learned of a death in the family, for example, the feedback should be delayed. Make sure to balance empathy with the need to give feedback.
2.Location: Feedback that is not positive should be delivered in private. The only situation I can think of where improvement feedback would be public would be at a very high level of leader in a 360 evaluation environment. When giving positive feedback, the location depends on the person. Some people like being in the spotlight. Others would be embarrassed to have the attention focused on them. For that type of personality, deliver the praise in private as well.
3.Direct: Feedback should always be direct. Dancing around the subject is not beneficial for either of you. Also, some people suggest “sandwiching” the feedback in between two praises. I don’t usually like this method because, many times, the message gets lost because the receiver only hears the two positives.
4.Specific: Give examples. If you are giving feedback that another person’s attitude needs to improve, be clear. For example, you might give an example of how they rolled their eyes in a meeting last Tuesday, or how they sighed heavily when you assigned a project, or how they complained about a new initiative.
5.Measurable: The feedback should be measurable. Give clear expectations of due dates, what needs to be improved, what behaviors need to stop, etc. For instance, if someone needs to improve their project management skills, communicate expectations: “I expect you to hold weekly team meetings, with the agenda sent out at least three days prior. I expect you to create a timeline of deliverables and send out bi-weekly updates, etc.”
6.Clarification: Ask the person to repeat back what they learned from the conversation. Ask for their reaction. Make sure you have agreement on what needs to happen going forward.
7.Support: Tell the person you are there to support them in any way possible. Offer to meet with the individual as often as they would like to ensure their success.