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How to Give Feedback

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Posted 27 January 2015 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with the training of your team leaders and managers.

How to Give Feedback

Do you want help in relation to giving and taking feedback? Feedback is information that relates your recent actions to your results.

Feedback is a crucial concept, in the development of every person. We all need feedback on our performance.

Feedback is information that relates your actions to your results:

  1. If your current actions are creating the results that you want, then the feedback is positive.
  2. If your current actions are creating the results you don't want, then the feedback would be negative.
  3. And if your current actions are creating results that are opposite to the results you want, then the feedback would be extremely negative.

Managers, leaders, parents, teachers all need to know how to use feedback.

Feedback is vital in learning. If you don't know what is working and what is not working, then how would you know how to modify your actions, in order to best achieve your goals?

In order to progress, you need feedback. In order to help others to progress you need to give them feedback.

Feedback comes in two main varieties:

  1. Positive feedback, (what I like to call, ON target feedback).
  2. Negative feedback, (what I like to call, OFF target feedback).

Let us look at how you can use both sets to your advantage.

Positive feedback, ON target feedback

On target feedback is feedback that confirms to the person that their current actions are creating results that are consistent with the desired outcome, or goal. It means, "Keep doing what you are doing. What you are doing is working. What you are doing is good."

It is very important to give people positive feedback.

It is very important that you don't neglect to give other people positive feedback.

Sadly many people do neglect to give positive feedback to others. Managers, leaders, parents and teachers often fail to give positive feedback and restrict themselves only to making comments when something has gone wrong.

Please remember the following sentence:

It is vitally important to positively reinforce good behaviour.

Define good behaviour as "any behaviour that you want to see more of".

And please note the following, it is also important to positively reinforce any behaviour that is approximating to good behaviour; meaning, whenever you are training someone to do something, give them positive feedback every time they do something that is remotely similar to the target behaviour. Whatever behaviour you positively reinforce, will be more likely repeated.

If you don't reinforce the good behaviours with positive feedback, then the other person may stop doing it.

Please forget the idea that you should not need to praise people for doing what they are paid for.

The fact is this: money is not the only motivator. You may pay them, and they are motivated by money, but they are not only motivated by money.

People are complex beings and they come to work for more than just money. They come to work for social reasons too. They come to work to gain social motivators, such as appreciation, a sense of progression and positive human relationships. Therefore you need to give positive feedback in the form of appreciation and praise.

Here are some tips on the practical application of on target feedback, praise.

  1. Make sure you give it!
  2. Don't give general praise. Instead ensure your feedback specific to a particular action.
  3. Do it soon after the action. Feedback to be effective must be given soon. Delayed praise loses its potency as a teaching tool.

Negative feedback, OFF target feedback

Negative feedback means that your recent actions are not giving you what you want, or are giving you what you really don't want.

Off target negative feedback is also vital to learning and progressive action. Many people mess up with respect to negative feedback. They mess up negative feedback by making one of the following three mistakes.

  1. They mistake insults for feedback. Meaning they insult the person and think that they have given valid negative feedback.
  2. They don't give negative feedback because they are afraid that the other person will mistake their negative feedback as an insult.
  3. They don't accept negative feedback because they mistake valid feedback as an insult.

Negative feedback is not the same as an insult

Please note the difference between negative feedback and insults.

Negative feedback is:

Specific, factual, given in private, intended to help and does suggest a specific corrective action.

Insult is the opposite:

Vague, opinionated, given in public, intended to hurt and does NOT suggest a specific corrective action.

Exercise:

Which of the following statements is negative feedback and which is an insult?

  1. You idiot? Why did you do that?
  2. You swear too much.
  3. You are 20 minutes late for the meeting.
  4. You are a clown.
  5. You have an attitude problem.
  6. You have strapped on your parachute, upside-down!

Answers:

Feedback is 2,3,6
Insults are 1,4,5.

Rules for giving negative feedback are as follows

  • Make sure you give it!
  • Make sure your negative feedback is specific, factual, given in private, intended to help and does suggest a specific corrective action.
  • Don't give insults and pretend you are giving feedback.
  • Give it soon after the original action. Negative feedback to be effective must be given soon. Delayed feedback loses its potency as a teaching tool.
  • Listen to negative feedback on your own performance and use it to inform your next response.

Summary

Feedback relates your recent actions to your results.

Feedback comes in two main varieties:

  1. Positive feedback, (ON target feedback).
  2. Negative feedback, (OFF target feedback).

On target feedback means, "What you are doing is good."

Off target feedback means that your recent actions are not giving you what you want.

In relation to feedback:

  • Make sure you give it!
  • Make sure your negative feedback is specific, factual, given in private, intended to help and does suggest a specific corrective action.
  • Don't give insults and pretend you are giving feedback.

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