“I don’t care how much you know. I want to know how much you care.”
Have you ever received feedback that was vague, unhelpful, or simply didn’t resonate with you? It can be frustrating, can’t it? That’s why it’s essential to understand how to give and receive meaningful feedback that drives growth and improvement.
But what exactly is meaningful feedback? It’s feedback that is specific, timely, constructive, relevant, and delivered in a supportive manner. With this type of feedback, individuals can take action to improve their skills and reach their goals.
Do you want your team to feel like you actually care about them? Like you are invested in their career and growth? The answer is simple: you must give feedback!
Cultures of trust and transparency demand that leaders and teams get good at giving feedback to each other, to people above them and of course their partners in the ecosystem. Sometimes, in our head, we tend to tie the idea of feedback to performance appraisals but that often dilutes the value of the feedback from a conversation to build someone or something up vs. a conversation that feels like a judgement being passed on someone. (Quick tip: If the word feedback makes your mouth dry and sends your heart racing – call it by another word – I like to call them learning loop conversations!).
Are you ready to upgrade the way you give feedback and make it actually impactful? Here’s how!
1. Timely feedback is important because it allows the recipient to act on the feedback while the situation is still fresh in their mind. Giving feedback too late or not soon enough may result in the recipient feeling discouraged or disheartened. Just make sure you don’t sacrifice the quality of your feedback in this step. Many times we avoid the moment because of our discomfort with conflict and the threat of a confrontation. That doesn’t make the problem go away. Chances are it will be back and next time it will probably be bigger and have greater potential for conflict. As a leader you “owe” your people feedback, and framing it as a service rather than a judgement on another helps ease our nerves.
2. Meaningful feedback should always be constructive, focusing on what the recipient can do to improve rather than criticizing them. Having said that, the mere mention of the word feedback creates anxiety in the listener (and as I mentioned above the teller as well). Encourage the recipient by emphasizing their strengths and pointing out areas for improvement in a supportive and non-judgmental manner (like describing how something made you feel, rather than trying to assert something as objectively “good” or “bad”). As Kim Scott (author of Radical Candor) said in an interview with workhuman, “Very often, praise is going to help people change more than criticism will.”
3. Stories are a powerful way to illustrate a point and make feedback more impactful. Consider sharing personal anecdotes or examples to help the recipient understand the impact of their actions and behaviors. Bringing up stories from your own mistakes and stepping into a circle of vulnerability helps people see how you truly care. Stories create a safe space for us to explore behaviour, mindset, and attitudes from a variety of perspectives without making it about the person itself. We want to get to the root of the problem without personalising it to a point that things turn into an ego battle. Your goal here is not to prove a point, but to make a point that proves helpful. In every single corporate storytelling workshop I do, I remind people storytelling is one of the highest ROI activities you will ever undertake in your career. You can find my workshop for Strategic Storytelling here!
4. The feedback you give should be relevant to the recipient’s goals and objectives. A great way to do that? Know what your team members’ goals are! When the feedback is relevant to what the recipient wants to achieve, it is more likely to be taken seriously and acted upon. And these goals need not always be professional goals but even personal ones. Learning to lean into the self identity and aspiration of a person helps you deliver feedback that is personal and meaningful for the person sitting across the table.
5. The way you deliver feedback is just as important as the content of the feedback itself. This might be different from person to person. Make sure to have a two-way conversation with the recipient to ensure that they understand your perspective and that you understand theirs. This is also the time to encourage individuals to give and receive feedback on a regular basis, and a great way to practice empathy as a team. Regular feedback can help individuals develop the habit of seeking out feedback, which is essential for growth and development. Empathy is key here. When both the giver and recipient of feedback approach the conversation with empathy, it creates a safe and supportive environment for growth and development.
These are just a few approaches to the topic of meaningful feedback. And just remember, it doesn’t have to be dire and serious! I hope these ideas inspire you and help you approach the topic in new and exciting ways! Feedback is a gift, so make sure your team doesn’t want to go back for a refund! Let it be the powerful tool for growth and development that it is. When given in a supportive and meaningful way, it can help individuals and organizations to thrive and reach their full potential.
Thank you so much for reading.
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