In this lesson, we will view a feedback scenario and explore elements of a successful feedback exchange.
The Feedback Session
The following scenario shows you a feedback session between Amisi and Joan. As you watch the video, reflect on Joan and Amisi’s communication—what do you think works well?
(To read along click here.)
The Feedback Exchange: Giving and Receiving
Feedback is an exchange; it is about giving and receiving. Notice how Joan’s language is always descriptive and focuses on workplace issues rather than personal traits. She emphasizes that her observations are from her own perspective. For instance, “This is a personal observation, so please tell me if I’m wrong…” Notice how Joan frames what has happened positively and as part of the learning process, instead of a failure on Amisi’s part. For instance, “What is important here is we learn from it, we make our adjustments, and we move forward.”
Elements of Skillful Feedback
As you saw in the previous video, there are many elements to consider when providing skillful feedback:
- Structure—A feedback session should have structure, with the employee’s performance compared to well-defined goals. But it should also feel like a brainstorming session.
- Collaboration—Encourage your employee to take an active role. Ask open-ended questions that allow both of you to come to an agreement about the employee’s overall performance: What aspects are successful? What needs improvement? Then both of you can develop an agenda for your session.
- Nothing personal—The actual feedback happens when you, as a manager, share your own observations of the employee’s performance. Any important part of your employee’s job performance can be discussed, but avoid making it personal. Unless they affect job performance, personality traits are not appropriate for feedback.
- Asked for vs. imposed—Feedback always works best when it’s asked for rather than imposed. When it comes as a surprise, especially when it’s negative, feedback can be met with a lot of resistance and emotion, and the message can get lost.
- Descriptive language—Avoid an emotional reaction by keeping your language descriptive but not personal, using words such as “the diagnosis” instead of “your diagnosis.” Deal with specifics, making use of real examples. Focus on the decision made, not the decision maker. When you do have to provide a subjective opinion, make it clear and specific. Start your observation with an “I” statement, e.g. “I felt ” or “I saw.”
- Focus on work performance—Even when you give positive feedback, avoid making it personal. Your employee’s work performance should always be the focus, not the employee as a person. Try not to overwhelm your employee with too much information, focusing only on behaviours that can be improved.
- Message received?—Always verify that the message has been received. Invite questions or discussion, and have the employee paraphrase what you’ve said. Work with the employee to help them interpret the feedback and create an action plan to address the feedback.
Here is a printable resource with tips for a successful feedback session.
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