The Power of Feedback

A golfer that hits their shots in the dark has no idea how well they are doing! They same applies to any element of human performance – How can you possibly improve if you don’t know how well you are doing in the first place?

Feedback is vital if we are to improve so here are some top tips on giving effective feedback to others: Feedback is going to be effective if…

  • It is descriptive rather than evaluative. By avoiding evaluative language, the receiver is less likely to respond defensively.
  • It is specific rather than general. To be told – you did OK is less helpful than being told – “I especially liked the way that you waited for her to finish speaking and listened carefully to what she said”.
  • It takes account of the needs of both receiver and giver of the feedback. Feedback which only considers the needs of the giver is not likely to be helpful to the recipient
  • It is timely. Feedback is most useful when it is given as soon as possible following the observed event. This will of course depend upon the receiver’s readiness to hear.
  • It is checked out with the receiver. It is important that the communication is clear and understood.
    The opportunity is given to the receiver to respond, or give further information/clarification.
  • It is balanced in both quality and quantity, especially when there is both positive and negative feedback involved
  • The person to whom the feedback is directed is invited to review and give feedback about the situation/issue first. This encourages the development of self-appraisal skills.
  • The behaviour is controllable. Criticism of behaviour outside the control of the person is likely to be viewed as unfair and could give rise to feelings of resentment. Frustration may also be an outcome.
  • It is future orientated, not backward looking. Whilst focusing on what went wrong, and why, may relieve your feelings, the objective is to get different behaviour in the future from the other person. Good feedback must focus on what to do rather than what was done.

Feedback is a way of helping someone to learn. It is designed to achieve a specific change in the individual’s behaviour in a way that will help them. Feedback is centred on the needs of the receiver, since otherwise it merely serves to relieve the feelings of the giver, at the receiver’s expense.

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