How to Provide High-Impact Feedback

By Rick Lepsinger

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Providing high-quality feedback is crucial to any employee development process. Without a clear assessment and feedback process, employees can be left adrift, without clear information on how they can improve. A good assessment process identifies areas of strength and development needs, helping to inform employee development plans.

Providing effective feedback, however, can often be challenging. The person delivering the feedback needs to keep a few key points in mind to ensure that the recipient will both accept the feedback and make an effort to follow through on any recommendations.

Be Timely

The best time to give feedback of any kind is as close to the situation as possible. While it may not always be possible to give feedback the moment an event takes place, letting too much time go by will diminish whatever impact the feedback might have. This is especially important when it comes to constructive feedback. As time goes by, memories have a way of creating different interpretations of events. People may also struggle to recall specific issues in question or feel like they’ve been ambushed when feedback focuses on something that no longer seems relevant to them.

More importantly, putting off feedback creates the opportunity for the behavior in question to continue. If someone is performing below expectations, allowing them to go on may create additional problems that will also need to be dealt with. Addressing issues promptly ensures that the changes needed to resolve them can be implemented faster.

Be Specific

For feedback to be useful to employees, it must highlight specific behavior with clear recommendations for solutions. A vague or broad criticism often fails to identify the real problem, making it hard for someone to understand what they could do to improve. It also leaves far too much open to interpretation, creating the possibility that the feedback will be misunderstood. This can leave the recipient feeling frustrated, powerless, or even unfairly attacked.

Focusing on specific behavior also keeps the feedback centered on facts instead of opinions or projections. If a team member isn’t completing their work, for example, the feedback should focus on how that affects the rest of the team, not on whether or not they care about their job or have a good work ethic. By referring to easily verifiable facts (did the work get done or not?), effective feedback avoids becoming a semantical debate over whether or not someone is interpreting the situation correctly.

Provide Balanced Feedback

Delivering too much negative feedback can undermine the entire process by causing people to become defensive t. There is also substantial evidence that the human brain has a hardwired “negativity bias” that gives more weight to negative information than positive information. While there is debate over the ideal mixture of effective feedback, positive comments should be at the very least equal to critical comments. In addition, opening a feedback session with highlights of what someone does well will often make them much more willing to accept criticism too.

More importantly, criticisms should be framed as problem solving opportunities. Rather than dwelling …read more

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