Dec 01 2021| Leadership | leaders

Giving feedback

The importance of giving and receiving feedback

by Kareena Hodgson Leaders Consultancy

I wonder what your internal response is when I mention feedback? Dismissive - it’s not worth your time; dread - it’s never been a good experience; or yes - bring it on! - it’s going to be useful.  

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill to be learned, practised and mastered. Good feedback is vital for your growth and for the growth of others around you. So why does it often feel so uncomfortable? It isn’t unusual for our first experience of feedback to be a poor one, which we then associate with hurt, awkwardness or simply being unhelpful. This is not a good foundation to continue inviting feedback or giving it. The natural reaction will be to avoid it and it’s easy to reason with ourselves that we are too busy actually doing the work, right? If you recognise any of these experiences or thoughts, know you are not alone 

One useful way to think about giving and receiving feedback is that it’s like giving and receiving a gift. Some people are great gift givers, others not so much. We’ve all received gifts that have been disappointing. Sometimes when you receive a gift you feel sure that the giver knows you, values you and understands you, because their gift is thoughtful, relevant and timely, and you know you are going to use it and treasure it rather than simply put it in a cupboard and forget about it. Sometimes you might be surprised and unsure about the gift initially but in time you recognise that it’s just what you needed, even if you didn’t realise it at the time. So you see, we don’t need to avoid feedback. We need to adjust our mindset, see feedback as a gift, an opportunity for growth, and we need to invest time into preparing and delivering quality feedback so it is presented in the best way to be fully received, understood and acted upon. This is not a Secret Santa moment. 

Creating a workplace where great feedback is expected and welcomed doesn’t happen overnight. In order to create the right environment, you need to ensure that: 

  • Organisations demonstrate a culture of mutual trust and respect. 
  • Organisations adopt a healthy model for feedback that provides clear structure and boundaries so people feel safe. 
  • Leaders demonstrate humility and commitment to their staff by intentionally and clearly modelling great feedback.

Only once these foundations are in place can you expect high-quality, authentic feedback. People need to feel safe to give and receive feedback. They need to feel valued, and they need to believe that the feedback is being given for all the right reasons and that they will be given support and opportunities to work on areas of development, not be punished for having them. 

One of the models that we at Leaders find very helpful is Kim Scott’s Radical Candor,also known as Compassionate Candor(check out the website https://www.radicalcandor.com). We love this simple diagram that clearly shows what you are aiming for when giving feedback, and what you definitely want to avoid. In reality, we will all have given and received feedback that falls in one of the other three quadrants so we know how that feels and how much we want to do better.

Kim Scott’s model highlights the need to demonstrate both care and clear challenges - this is not the same as brutal honesty. This Compassionate Candor provides the best opportunity for lasting change and for sustaining and deepening trusting relationships. I particularly like the second point, offering specific, sincere praise and kind, clear criticism. Which resonates with you? What else would you add? 

 

Here are a few practical tips for giving feedback: 

  • Prepare well, think about the language you will use. 
  • Be clear and specific, you must be able to give a clear example of what you are giving feedback on. 
  • Be kind and balanced, focus on this being a growth opportunity, tell them what they have done well and not just what they need to improve 
  • Be prepared to be wrong, because you might be. 
  • Give feedback face to face - even if that means on a video call. Don’t hide behind an email to avoid a difficult conversation. 
  • Don’t let it build up. If you have praise to pass on do so before you forget it and if it’s corrective feedback share it in a timely way so the person has time to process and respond. Wait too long and it will be destructive rather than constructive. 

Practical tips for receiving feedback: 

  • Be open-minded, hold onto the perspective that feedback is a gift and do not react immediately if you find it painful, give yourself time to process the feedback and identify what elements are helpful. 
  • Clarify aspects you are not sure of, and don’t take a defensive approach which will likely lead to argument and offence. Clarification will help you better understand their perspective. 
  • Evaluate the feedback slowly, sleep on it, check it out with a trusted friend or colleague (as long you know they will be truthful with you). Just because it’s painful, it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. 

Whether you are giving or receiving feedback, be courageous, be open, be gracious, be honest and be kind. We are all human, we all feel an emotional response to feedback and we usually want to take opportunities to grow and develop. Let’s encourage and support one another to do just that. 

About The Author | Kareena Hodgson

Having achieved a degree in Community and Youth Work, Kareena built her career in the third sector. She was head of Action for Children in Guernsey for over 10 years, working with a wide range of often challenging situations. Kareena is keenly committed to fostering systems and environments that enable people to flourish. This includes substantial experience in team building and leadership, engaging with multiple stakeholders and supporting individuals in creating healthier habits in work and life. The combination of her encouraging style, people-first mindset, creative thinking, aptitude for utilising insights from psychometric surveys and passion for healthy environments is an asset for any team in any sector.

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