The past three weeks have been hectic for me: I left Africa for Europe for two weeks on transit to Asia. Now officially based in Azerbaijan, I have been exploring Baku and tasting Azeri delicacies. For this month-long stay here, I want to enjoy as much as I can before re-routing back to UK onward to Cairo.
I digressed a bit so let us focus on business of the day . . .
Have you ever noticed how many times we give feedback?
As adults the frequency of giving feedback can just be instantaneous, impromptu and unplanned but generally we just give feedback wherever we see or feel something needs to be done, or corrected .
When used effectively, feedback can be an invaluable tool for raising and maintaining colleagues or students’ performance, developing ideas and strengthening relationships.
It is a skill that is important to master in order to ensure that your team members or students alike, feel their efforts are recognized and appreciated, as well as helping them to focus on areas for improvement.
If we are to make changes in what we do, we need to know how well, or otherwise, we are doing.
Feedback is key in a mentoring relationship, and performs a valuable role in:
- improving self-awareness
- enhancing self esteem
- raising morale
- encouraging people to want to learn
- offering reassurance
What Is Effective Feedback?
It is . . .
- focused on behaviour, not on perceived attitudes
- focused on behaviour which can be changed
- based on observation
- given in good time
- about what the individual did well and what they could do better
- given in private
These top tips will help you deliver effective feedback (both positive and negative) to your colleagues in a constructive way.
IDEAS ON GIVING FEEDBACK
- Be prepared. Know what you are going to say, how you are going to say it and why you need to say it.
- If you are delivering negative feedback, identify the behaviour that needs to be corrected, and use specific words when describing it, rather than generalisations. For example, rather than saying ‘You are terrible at putting in absence returns’, instead say ‘I’ve noticed that your absence returns have not been delivered on time for the past months – can we discuss why this is?’
- Similarly, if you are offering positive feedback, it is also important to be as specific as possible. For example, rather than saying ‘You did a great job on that committee, well done’, instead say ‘ Your contribution to this committee was a great help.’
- Stay positive. Even if the feedback you are delivering is negative, try to ensure the process is a positive one for the other person involved. It is always good to start with something positive, to help put the person at ease, and if possible, end on a positive note too (the ‘feedback sandwich’).
- Stick to the facts. Be specific by focusing only on behaviours and achievements you have observed yourself and back these up with relevant examples. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement: ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is not quite the same as what you like or dislike. It is important to become detached from your personal preferences and opinions in order to provide constructive feedback that the other person can act on.
- Focus on impact. Describe exactly what impact the other person’s behaviour has had (whether this a positive or negative impact) – what the impact of the behaviour was, and who the behaviour affected – in order to help explain why the behaviour and the resulting feedback is important.
- Be timely. Give feedback as close to the event as possible – it is much easier to talk to someone about a single issue, when it is fresh in everyone’s mind, than it is to discuss a whole year of stored up problems. Similarly, if you want to praise someone for a job well done, do so straight away, rather than waiting until the next performance review – they will appreciate the compliment and you are less likely to forget what they have done. However, if the feedback you need to give involves high emotions, wait a while until the situation has calmed down. This will make it less likely that you and/or the other person involved says something in the heat of the moment that could be regretted later.
- Be regular. Try to give feedback regularly. This means there are fewer surprises for your team members and it prevents problems from getting out of hand. Regular does not just mean formal review meetings; it also includes informal feedback that can be given more frequently e.g. every week or every day, depending on the situation.
- Give the other person the right of reply. Allow the person you are speaking to plenty of opportunities to give their opinion on their behaviour or how they think they are doing, and ask them for suggestions on what they think they have done well and what they could do to improve. This makes them feel that they are in control, and also helps ensure that they know that you are interested in them and their development.
- Identify next steps. Once the feedback has been delivered, agree on what actions need to be taken next, who will be responsible for them, and how and when you will monitor and evaluate progress.
- Offer further support. Ensure that the other person knows you are willing to provide them with further support and guidance whenever they need it; tell them that they should not be afraid of asking for help. Also provide them with some alternative sources of support (e.g. other team colleagues, another department or school, a useful website or publication), especially if you suspect they may not be comfortable approaching you.
Techniques On Giving Feedback
Any feedback, when done well, can be a liberating process for both observer and observee, deepening understanding and expertise, as well as creating the conditions for high quality learning. This is about moving from a traditional observation process, overly reliant on a judgemental ‘tell’ process that has the observer telling the observee what and how to improve, to one where the observer and observee jointly learn in a learning conversation based on descriptive information or evidence.
There are different techniques for giving feedback.
Praise Sandwich Feedback
One of the more frequently touted feedback strategies is known as the praise sandwich. It involves you warming up your target with some praise, then delivering your critique, before finishing things off with another bit of praise.
In other words, you make positive statements, discuss areas for improvement, and then finish with more positive statements.
Stop, Start, Continue
This is where you discuss with your mentee:
- what they feel they should stop doing
- what they feel they should start doing
- what they wish to continue doing
This stands for:
B – Behaviour
For example: ‘I need to speak to you about your timekeeping …’; ‘I’d like to give you some feedback on your presentation …’
E – Example(s)
For example: ‘… you were 20 minutes late this morning. That was the third time you’ve been more than 15 minutes late in the last 2 weeks’;
‘I particularly liked the visual aids you used, and the presentation was very well paced’
E – Effect(s)
For example: ‘Were you aware that the others in the team have had to cover your work, which meant they were getting behind with their work?’;
‘It created a very professional impression, and also meant that the message came across particularly clearly and was easy to follow.’
F – Future
For example: ‘We need to talk about why this is happening and what can be done to ensure you are at work on time’;
‘I am confident that you are able to give effective presentations to this level of audience – well done.
This stands for:
- E – Example – Use specific behavioural examples and remember that specific evidence is very powerful.
- E – Effect – What effect does the behaviour have on you, the team, the business or (probably most important) the organisation’s reputation in the eyes of its customers.
- C – Change – State how you would like the behaviour to change in future.
E.E.C. can be used for positive feedback too. The change could be about maintaining the good behaviour or even consider ways of doing it even better.
The BIFF Feedback Model
- B – Behaviour: the specific description of what the person receiving the feedback has done.
- I – Impact: What outcomes this behaviour has had on you, colleagues, customers or performance.
- F – Future: What you expect in terms of behaviour or performance.
- F – Feelings: An insight to where the feedback receiver is emotionally after receiving the feedback.
Like most feedback models, this can be used to structure positive or praise feedback or performance improvement feedback. Also like the other models, this can be used to structure more of a “push” or tell conversation, or a “pull” or ask conversation.
Focus On The Future
While you want the feedback to be balanced, the overall focus needs to be on the future. Remember no one can change the past – its value in a feedback situation is for context, consequences and concrete examples, not for dwelling, hand-wringing or excessive blame.
Always end the conversation talking about the future, including their thoughts through asking the other person’s opinion early and often. Doing this will give you the best shot at an action plan of which the other person will feel ownership.
The Feedback Receiver
Your mentee may well wish to give you some feedback. Remember that when you are receiving feedback it will help if you:
- are open to suggestions
- listen carefully
- ask questions about their comments
- are prepared to contribute
Feedback is always different depending on the intended goal.
To my students@HighSchool, I have to think of what sort of feedback I need to give them based on three scenarios:
The goal is to get students to internalize the effective feedback to use independently on future work assignments.
It is intended to be used by the learner to independently move their reasoning to the next level.
- It is criteria-based. There are phrases used to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the learner’s work.
- It tends to limit feedback to one or two traits/aspect of quality at a time.
- Students should have an opportunity to “re-do” their work based on the effective feedback given.
- Its goal is to improve student achievement by telling the learner how to move forward in the learning process.
- It is intended to tell the learner what needs to be improved.
- It isn’t as effective in getting students to move forward in the learning process.
- Its goal is to measure student achievement with a score or a grade.
- It is intended to summarize a student’s achievement.
- It does not give guidance on how to improve the learner’s reasoning.
- Since it is not intended to move students forward in the learning process, it can be given on summative assessments.
- Its goal is to make the learner feel good.
- It is intended to encourage and support the learner.
- It does not give guidance on how to improve the learner’s reasoning.
- Since it is not intended to move students forward in the learning process, it can be given on summative assessments, eg: “I like how you completed the assignment.”
Should Feedback Be A Normal And Expected Occurrence?
The key to creating feedback is to try and create a culture whereby feedback is normal and expected.
That way there isn’t such a drama involved in its delivery, and recipients will regard it as a positive step towards them getting better.
Four things can help you on your way to obtaining that kind of culture:
- Give people confidence that feedback, both good and bad, are both welcome and appreciated. People shouldn’t be afraid that it might dent their promotional prospects, for instance.
- Try and make the giving of feedback a regular and routine occurrence. Too often companies and schools reserve it for annual set piece events like the job performance review and feedback appraisals. This is bad.
- Make sure you give praise and thanks as well as you do criticism. We all like to hear that we’ve done a good job, so don’t be shy.
- Leaders should take the lead. It’s especially hard to critique those higher up than you, so leaders need to make a conscious effort to walk the talk when it comes to wanting feedback.
Feedback is critical to any business.
Suffice to say, however, for feedback to work as effectively as possible, it requires a culture that fosters and supports the regular giving of feedback.
The conversations we conduct with colleagues during the feedback process can provide the basis for positive action.
By describing, summarising, paraphrasing, clarifying, questioning and interpreting, we support a reflective process that colleagues can apply on their own and in the process they will feel EMPOWERED and will be ready to EXCEL.
Happy holidays, dear folks.