How to Give Feedback

Leadership coach and expert, Susanne Madsen, outlines the best practices to employ when giving feedback to your team members.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!


In Review: How to Give Feedback

Susanne noted that there are two different ways to give feedback. They are:

  • Positive reinforcement: emphasizing the behavior you like and want repeated
  • Constructive feedback: commenting on what and how to improve

She then went on to explore ways in which you can implement constructive feedback so that you’re making the team member feel supported so that they will in fact listen and implement your comments. They are as follows:

  • Be specific and give examples
  • Create open dialogue
  • Be honest and tactful
  • Be constructive
  • Listen, don’t interrupt

These techniques will help you guide your team to success by pointing out where they need help and making them feel empowered to change.

Take it further: Read How to Lead Through Communication, by contributor and PM expert Dave Wakeman.

Pro-Tip: These techniques can be applied to your stakeholders, too, though in a somewhat different context. You may not have the authority to criticize them, but if you feel it’s important to point out a problem, using the same techniques may help you.

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Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Susanne Madsen. Welcome to this whiteboard session on how to give feedback.There are fundamentally two different ways in which to give feedback. One is as a positive reinforcement. This is where you feedback on a behavior that you would like the person to keep doing. You might say, “Oh, that was a great report you did for our clients last week, keep up the good work.” Most of us love to hear that kind of feedback, and most of us enjoy giving it because it produces a positive feeling.

The other type of feedback is constructive feedback. This is where you comment on a behavior that you would like the person to improve. You might sometimes think of this as negative feedback. If we give the feedback in an elegant and thoughtful manner it does become constructive, meaning that the person can do something with it. If it’s negative, they are discouraged. If it’s constructive, they know and feel supported to actually improving their behavior as a result.

Let’s look at how to do that. The first element is that you must be specific, and give examples so that the person understands exactly what the behavior is that needs to be improved. It is not very helpful if you say you always talk over clients. What can I do with that type of feedback? It needs to be specific.You must create an open dialog with the person. Feedback is not just from me to you. It is a two-way process. After you have stated what you have observed, what the feedback is, be still and ask the person, “What do you feel? What does the situation look like from your point of view?”

Be honest, yet tactful. If you have a team member who is just not reaching the standard, who is not performing, you have to be honest about it. You have to call that out. That doesn’t mean you have to be nasty. You have to be tactful in delivering that feedback, and be sensitive.

This is where emotional intelligence comes in. Show empathy. Try to feel what it is like to be receiving that type of feedback. So give the feedback with care, but do be honest, otherwise it is not helpful again.

Be constructive. So after you have given the feedback and you have stated quite clearly what you have observed, you have listened to their comments, then talk about how can we move this forward? How can we, together, change this to make sure that your performance is improved? What can the other person do, what will they commit to doing, and what can you as their manager or project manager do to help them? You need to collaborate on this point.

Lastly, listen. Do not interrupt. Feedback is not just you getting off your chest what you want to convey. It is very important that you pause and really give space for the other person. You’re not sure what kind of emotional response it creates in them, so be still at times, and really listen to what they have to say, as well.

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