Give and Receive Feedback
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Give positive and constructive feedback.
- Respond effectively to defensiveness.
- Receive feedback more easily.
It can be tough to give feedback. Remember that awkward moment sitting face-to-face with someone getting ready to talk about a missed deadline? Or a recent client meeting that tanked? It seems easier just to let it go and hope it doesn’t happen again. But without providing feedback, it probably will.
Gallup’s research shows that employees don’t get enough feedback. While you might think you’re giving enough feedback, your employees might not think so. And that can cost you time, quality of work, and headaches dealing with poor performance.
So why do managers avoid giving feedback?
You can come up with a number of reasons to avoid giving constructive feedback. Or maybe you’re too rushed all the time to stop and recognize someone’s great performance. But it’s amazing how powerful feedback can be when you take the time to do it right.
Interested in more data about the benefits of employee feedback? Take a look at these remarkable statistics on the importance of employee feedback.
Ever heard the expression, “Feedback is a gift”? Feedback shows your employees that you’re paying attention to their performance. It also says that you care about their success. When you go out on a limb to give feedback about something that benefits them, even if it’s hard to hear, it is truly a gift. What your employees can learn from feedback can take them far!
When you give feedback to your employees, you’re not only giving an immediate gift, you’re building long-term trust. The Chicago Innovation Awards recently focused on collaboration. Through case studies and interviews, they found that when there’s trust, there’s more innovation, collaboration, and creative thinking, and everyone is working toward the same goals. That’s quite a gift!
Convinced? It’s obvious that feedback is important to employees. It’s important to your business, too.
Listen to what Salesforce CFO Mark Hawkins has to say about the importance of feedback in driving Salesforce’s success.
Sometimes feedback is straightforward and fast. You share a word of thanks after a great presentation. You point out something you noticed in the meeting. You both smile, nod, and walk away. Mission accomplished.
But it’s not always like that, is it? Think about the difficult performance feedback you’ve had to give. Probably not fast or easy.
Each situation is unique, and you might use a different approach each time. What could influence your approach?
- Your style—Are you more comfortable being direct or indirect?
- Others’ styles—How do they respond best to feedback?
- The situation—Simple or complex?
- Type of feedback—One-time situation or an ongoing pattern of behavior?
Let’s look at some models that help you prepare for, deliver, and support the feedback you want to give.
Ready to give some feedback? You have two options.
- Share then ask. Provide your perspective and then ask for the individual’s reaction.
- Ask then share. Ask questions first to hear the other person’s perspective before you provide yours.
So when do you ask first versus share your perspective right off the bat? Let’s take a look at some suggested guidelines below.
|One-time event (meeting, interaction, missed deadline)||
|Ongoing performance issue, potentially uncomfortable topic||
In the first situation, you are starting by asking for the other person’s point of view. If the individual is aware of what happened and his or her role in the situation, you might not have to give your perspective. In this case, you want to learn where the person is coming from and move quickly into next steps. Sound like coaching? It is. Remember the GROW model?
With ongoing situations, you might want to share your observations first and then get a reaction. If a pattern of behavior exists, the person either might not be aware of what is happening or know what to do about it.
Let’s talk about an easy way to share your perspective regardless of when it happens in the conversation. It’s called SBI.
The SBI model helps you be specific, share the feedback clearly and objectively, and set the stage for action planning.
Here’s an example. Susan just did a demo with a customer. Here’s what you could say.
|Situation||“Susan, I’d like to talk about the demo this morning.”|
|Behavior||“I noticed that you didn’t ask the customer questions about their needs.”|
|Impact||“As a result, we don’t know what’s most important to them, which impacts our ability to make the sale.|
What if Susan did a great job in the demo? Does SBI also apply to positive feedback? Yes, it does!
|S||“Susan, I’d like to talk about the demo you did today with our customers.”|
|B||“I noticed that you asked questions that uncovered important information about their needs.”|
|I||“They were impressed, had confidence in our product, and we’re on a great path to make the sale.”|
Still not sure how to do it? Take a look at a few more examples.
|Use SBI and say||Don’t say|
|“The deadline was on Friday, and when I didn’t receive your report, we weren’t able to update our customers. This affected their confidence in us.”||“Your reports are always late. You’re letting our customers down.”|
|“I was concerned that John wasn’t able to provide his perspective in Friday’s meeting. Without his team’s input, we can’t move forward and make our recommendations by Monday.”||“You don’t collaborate well with others. You’re making us look bad.”|
|“You answered all the marketing team’s questions during the review meeting. Your preparation built their trust and allowed us to influence them. Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to move forward. We could really use you in next week’s meeting.”||“Great job!”|
|“Your recommendations to the product team were innovative and well thought out. Without you, the team’s approach wouldn’t have been the same. I’m excited to have you continue to be our point of contact with the team.”||“Thanks!”|
Watch this video to learn more about giving great feedback using SBI.
The situation is clear, check! Behaviors and impact explained, check! Isn’t that it? No, don’t stop yet.
The most important part of feedback is identifying the solution and working together to come up with the next steps.
- What can you stop, start or continue doing?
- Which actions address this situation?
- What did you learn?
Using START, STOP, CONTINUE
A great way to help your team members come up with their own solutions is to have them think about specific actions they can start, stop, or continue.
Here’s an example of someone struggling with facilitating meetings.
|START||“I’m going to start being more realistic in my meeting agendas about how much time we need for the discussion. I want to hear everyone’s perspective.|
|STOP||“I’m going to stop interrupting others because I’m feeling rushed. More time and a better agenda helps me with this.”|
|CONTINUE||“I’m good at coming up with options and pros and cons. I’ll continue to help the team focus on specific solutions and the benefits and drawbacks. That makes a difference.”|
Remember, no one likes to be told exactly what to do. In fact, if you tell them what to do and it doesn’t work, they’re going to say, “Hey, it was your idea to do it that way!”
Ask them to come up with the solution and then ask how you can support it.
When next steps are in place, don’t forget to provide ongoing support.
- Check in during your one-on-one meetings to see how things are going.
- Follow up on next steps.
- Give ongoing feedback.
- Recognize improvements.
- Ask where the employee needs your help.
Remember, don’t fall into the trap of making these common mistakes when you give feedback.
Instead, use these tips for giving feedback.
- Prepare for the conversation.
- Give timely feedback (24–48 hours after the situation).
- Avoid using exaggeration, such as “you always” or “you never.”
- Ask questions and listen.
- Make feedback a two-way conversation.
- Be specific and give examples using SBI.
- Be direct, to the point, and concise.
- Remain objective.
- Pay attention to your own and others’ body language.
- Identify actions to move forward.
Use these tips to give some great feedback this afternoon!
Still a little hesitant to give feedback? Planning for it could help, especially if you have to give difficult performance feedback. You’ll feel more comfortable and confident, and you’ll stay on track. It’s the best way to avoid surprises and get through the conversation with ease.
|What’s your objective?||
|What questions will you ask?||
|What will you share?||
|What potential reactions do you need to be prepared for?||
|What ideas do you have about next steps?||
Need to plan some feedback you’re going to give? You’ll find a sample Feedback Planning Tool in the Coaching & Feedback pack.
Still feeling anxious? Managing for the first time? Check out these tips for new managers giving feedback.
Uh oh! What if you think you’re doing a great job delivering feedback and suddenly you see the other person becoming defensive? We’ve all experienced it. It becomes a tug of war—arguing, blame, frustration, making excuses. What do you do?
When defensiveness creeps into the conversation, don’t be afraid to say, “I notice this is bothering you. Let’s talk about it.” Pause and ask questions to get clear about what’s going on.
You can ask:
- What are you thinking right now?
- What do you find most frustrating about this feedback?
- What do you agree with?
- What do you disagree with?
You might want to take a break and come back later to discuss the feedback. Don’t hesitate to call a timeout. Or maybe the person just needs a chance to vent before moving on.
Keep this checklist in mind when you face defensiveness.
- Stay calm—don’t get defensive yourself.
- Be clear and succinct.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Hear the other person out.
- Validate what you’re hearing the person say. For example, “It sounds like you don’t agree with what I’ve shared about this …”
- Invite questions.
- Take a break if needed.
- Shift the conversation toward solutions.
- Be empathetic and patient.
What about being on the receiving end of feedback? Yes, managers need feedback, too. We all have things we can improve!
Above all else, feedback is a great way to learn. Without it, you don’t have the chance to make changes that help you be more successful as a manager. It’s important to ask for feedback frequently.
Ask for feedback in your one-on-one meetings. Demonstrate that you are open to hearing your team member’s point of view. Don’t say, “What feedback do you have for me?” This could be overwhelming or intimidating. Ask questions!
- What am I doing that’s working?
- What’s not working?
- What can I do more of?
- What’s one thing I could do less of?
- What’s one thing I can do differently?
- How can I better support you?
Employees might be hesitant to give you feedback, fearing that you could be critical of them, react negatively, or hold it against them. They might not have the skills you’re learning to give effective feedback.
Cut them some slack, and don’t expect them to give perfect feedback. Reassure them that you want and need them to provide feedback. Let them know that in the spirit of learning and development, you’re trying to become better and welcome their feedback.
When others do give you feedback, whether or not you agree with it, listen carefully! Summarize what you hear, and ask questions.
Tips for receiving feedback:
- Take a deep breath.
- Remain calm.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Don’t argue, become defensive, or make excuses.
- Stay open-minded.
Even if the feedback seems off base, remember that being defensive sends the message that you aren’t open to feedback. If employees sense resistance, they’re less likely to provide it in the future.
After you’ve heard the feedback, evaluate it. Take your time. Think about it. Don’t automatically accept or reject it.
- Have others said similar things to you?
- Is this already something you knew about yourself?
- Are you surprised?
- Could this be something to consider?
Here are some dos and don’ts for receiving feedback.
|Listen before you respond||Jump into making excuses|
|Ask clarifying questions||Question whether the feedback is accurate|
|Paraphrase what you heard||Make assumptions|
|Pay attention to your reaction||Take it personally|
Feeling better about how to give and receive feedback? Go out and give it a try! And remember, feedback is a gift!