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5 ways to make your feedback impactful

Colleagues, family, restaurants, friends, pets…. Who are you giving feedback to?

You can probably name at least one situation where you’ve been asked directly for feedback - remember those “tell us about your experience” texts/emails/forms you’ve ignored after buying anything online?! There may be times when you haven’t been asked for feedback but you’ve certainly given some, verbally or otherwise.

In a workplace, feedback is hailed as a simple way to stimulate development, to improve processes, and an instrument to motivate and engage teams. Parsloe (1995) suggests that: ‘Communication is a two-way process that leads to appropriate action… in the context of developing competence, it is not an exaggeration to describe feedback as “the fuel that drives improved performance”.

Chances are, you’re giving feedback already- but how can you make sure it is effective?

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare - Preparing how the feedback will be delivered will build confidence. Taking 5 minutes out of the day to note down some points that need to be covered could really make a difference in the quality of the feedback and also save time in the long run.

In the preparation you might want to consider:

Why is this feedback being given?

What will happen if this feedback isn’t delivered?

What do you expect the reaction to be?

How might this reaction distort/inhibit your message being received?

How could you adapt the communication style to ensure they receive the message clearly?

2. Act timely - It may sound simple - and it is - give the feedback as soon as you can after observing the situation. However, you must make sure the time and the setting is right for both you and the individual receiving the feedback. This may even mean telling the receiver that you have feedback to give, asking if they would rather receive it now or at another time.

Consider: Will you be able to give the feedback in an unemotional, balanced tone at this time?

If you are giving feedback in person, what environment works well for the individual receiving the feedback and yourself? (This might mean waiting until you are in a more suitable environment).

3. Remain objective - Feedback should always be based on observations and actions - not personality! Observing the behaviour yourself is the most effective as you will be able to use ‘I’ statements when delivering the feedback i.e ‘I observed…’, this can help to lessen any emotion or reaction of denial as the feedback remains factual.

4. Be specific - Address specific, observable behaviors instead of making broad judgments to ensure the feedback is useful and meaningful. Telling someone that they have good communication skills is not constructive or effective. Instead, describe a specific example of the behavior observed, and explain the effects it has had on you or others. If there is something they need to improve on, you can also provide clear suggestions as to how they could do things differently.

Think of a time you’ve been told you did well- the feeling may initially be positive, however a long lasting and more helpful piece of feedback would tell you exactly what you did so well- so you can repeat the behaviour.

Using a feedback model can assist you with making sure any feedback is really clear for the individual receiving it -so they will know exactly what they have done well or what they need to improve.  There are more examples of feedback models here to try.

EEC Feedback Model

E​- E​xample. This should be a retelling of the behaviour observed in a specific and clear way.

E​- E​ffect. This is the impact of the behaviour that allows the receiver to understand the outcome.

C​- C​ongratulate or C​hange. Where feedback is positive, you can increase understanding as well as motivation to continue with congratulation. During developmental feedback, a suggestion of change helps to redirect the receiver towards the expected standards of performance. This could mean asking the individual what they feel would be a suitable change- this allows you to check their is a good understanding of what exactly is expected.  

5.   Follow up - Don’t let all your hard work of giving feedback unravel, check in with the individual after your have provided feedback to make sure they stay on track.  If you are seeing positive improvements, let them know as soon as possible!

Feedback is for the recipient, not the giver – don't forget to be sensitive to the impact of your message.

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