One Foot In

How To Make Your Feedback Effective & Actionable

Effective feedback

Master the art of effective feedback for leaders. Explore actionable strategies to improve feedback skills, enhance team dynamics, and navigate leadership transitions. Discover the key elements of constructive criticism and practical approaches for giving and receiving feedback in evolving work environments.

How to give feedback that cuts through.

What’s more critical for a leader than the ability to offer effective criticism and provide actionable feedback?

Not much.

Yet, while 86% of people desire feedback, only 48% feel inclined to give it.

Feedback isn’t just a skill we lack; it’s something we ACTIVELY avoid.

Offering feedback is a skill often developed over time, frequently without adequate training. This is especially risky in young or rapidly growing teams, where roles shift swiftly and careers transition overnight from ‘doer’ to ‘manager’ to ‘leader’. Suddenly finding oneself in a leadership role involves giving feedback. We must ensure that feedback is not just given but is effective and actionable.

So, what is the art of great feedback?

How can we enhance feedback skills to increase your effectiveness and make your feedback more actionable?

  1. Check yourself
    Feedback is a two-way street. Consider your contribution. Are you aiming to grow a skill, address an urgent issue, or tackle a systemic problem for improvement? Going in prepared may seem obvious, yet most people initiate feedback with ‘Here are the things I don’t like’ rather than ‘What am I trying to achieve here,’ leading to short-term frustration rather than long-term change.
  2. Be intentional about timing
    If it’s too late to rectify and emotions are raw, it’s not the ideal moment for critical feedback. Constructive (i.e., effective and actionable) feedback needs to reach someone in a receptive mental state. The more significant the issue, the more time should be allowed for the initial disappointment to subside. Prompt feedback can’t undo what’s happened. However, well-timed feedback could prevent a recurrence.
  3. Observe first
    One form of feedback involves providing perspective. Act as an impartial observer to highlight opportunities for improvement. ‘Here’s what I’m noticing.’ Be curious. Pause before ‘this is what I would change’ to gauge initial reactions.
  4. Note what’s working and what’s not
    57% prefer corrective feedback, and only 43% seek praise/recognition. However, it’s essential to balance negatives with positives. Be direct with negative feedback and remember to acknowledge what is working.
  5. Request or question?
    Request feedback involves asking for changes based on how you would do things. This common form of feedback can quickly verge into micromanagement. Question feedback involves inquiry. ‘What was your approach here?’ ‘Would you approach it differently?’
  6. Find your method
    It’s crucial to be directive. Some prefer face-to-face interactions, while others thrive in shoulder-to-shoulder settings. For leaders uncomfortable with confrontation, giving feedback while walking might be easier and allow for more effective directness.
  7. Focus on actions
    Feedback often feels very personal to both parties. While it is personal, center the feedback on actions. ‘I believe this [action] could help to…’ removes the ‘You need to fix this’ sentiment.
  8. I versus You
    Building on the previous point, ensure it’s your perspective. It’s about the work, not the person. ‘When you did this’ can feel like an attack. ‘I see an issue. What if there was a way we could…’ feels more constructive.
  9. Avoid vagueness
    ‘This isn’t working’ isn’t helpful feedback. ‘Could we expedite things? What if we tried…’ offers a better approach. Delve into specifics. While offering an opportunity for change, knowing why you’re dissatisfied is crucial, rather than just expressing dissatisfaction.
  10. Take what you give
    Be open to feedback yourself—be vulnerable. Demonstrate your willingness to receive feedback and how you respond to it. Avoid overly open-ended inquiries like ‘Does anyone have feedback for me?’ Instead, try ‘Could I have handled [specific moment] differently?’ to make giving feedback less daunting.

We should note that some actions or behaviors don’t warrant constructive feedback. If something is blatantly unacceptable, feedback should be swift, direct, and clear. However, remember never to resort to shaming—it doesn’t bring about change in people. If the situation feels like shaming is the only instinct, opt for swift and clear repercussions.

Interested in feedback training for you and your teams? Drop us a line.

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