How to Give Constructive Feedback

Feedback exists in various different forms, basically you are always acting and reacting to feedback you get from anything happening around you or social interaction. For example, at a party when no one laughs at your joke (feedback), you will take that information and maybe change your approach or topic of your next joke. This is a relatively subtle, yet simple form of feedback. However, constructive feedback is different, it is the guidance that helps the recipient achieve a positive outcome, the key here being guidance. With constructive feedback you not only show the recipient what they can do better, but also aid them in understanding how they can do so.

According to Bill Gates “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”, and that’s true, research from the University of Auckland, shows that feedback is vital to professional development. Constant constructive feedback boosts professional growth by giving you actionable and specific ways of improving. It addresses expectations and opens up for an honest, collaborative relationship between employee and manager. Additionally, frequent constructive feedback as a ritual in an organization will overtime strengthen your team’s trust and culture.

As Ken Blanchard once said “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”, and it can be, if it is done correctly, otherwise it quickly turns into criticism, which has been shown to be unproductive. So how do you go about giving constructive feedback? Here are some steps to help you along the way:

  • Identify the specific area that requires feedback.

  • Ask for permission and allow the receiver autonomy and space to reflect before the feedback session, this helps them think of ways they can improve themselves as well and makes them feel less cornered or attacked.

  • Describe what was observed, this is not about sharing your opinion, stick to the facts of the matter, this also helps avoid misunderstandings.

  • Explain your reaction to the observation you made, and the impact the situation has, without coming off as accusatory or judgmental.

  • Empower the receiver to contemplate and explain their side of the story.

  • Together, with the receiver, think of ideas on how they can improve and suggest meaningful alternatives to reassure them that you have their best intentions behind the feedback session.

  • Set up a follow-up meeting to evaluate progress and discuss any problems that arise.

  • Continue to be supporting and encouraging as the receiver tries to improve.

Giving good constructive feedback requires a fine balance between actually getting to the issue at hand, allowing for the negative to be identified so that it can be fixed, but doing it in a positive future-focused manner. Too positive and the feedback session is unproductive and does not lead to change, too negative and it turns into criticism rather than constructive feedback, which is neither nice nor inducing positive change. As you might have noticed, there is a lot to keep in mind if you want to be good at giving constructive feedback, but it gets easier with practice. So for now, remember that a well-executed feedback session inspires, builds strengths, is focused on the future and does not focus on “you” as a problem, but rather how “we” together can make this whole situation better and pivot together.

Author: Mathilde Bastiansen

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