Six tips for giving and receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is never easy, but it’s essential to improve your team’s performance and productivity. Here are our 6 tips for giving and receiving feedback.

Fiona Tilden, Senior HR Manager at Ashurst;
Kate Potter, Head of CRM and Client Insights at Gilbert + Tobin; and
Carmen Wearne, Head of Deloitte’s Strategic Clients Team recently
shared their top 6 tips on how they give feedback – and how to receive it.

1. Understand the role of feedback

It’s important to remember that people usually give feedback with good intentions – to help their colleagues improve. “People genuinely want you to be better,” said Potter. With that in mind, you should think of feedback as a continual improvement discussion. If you receive surprising feedback, take a step back and breathe, then start asking what you need to improve and how. “Trust that your colleagues will be open and honest, keeping your best interests in mind,” said Tilden. The most important thing to remember is that receiving negative feedback doesn’t define who you are or your contribution to the business.

2. Prepare to receive feedback

When going into a discussion where you will be receiving feedback, you should always come prepared – both mentally and by doing some research. This helps to elevate your position in the conversation and gives you an opportunity to contribute constructively, rather than just taking the hits and trying to process it. It helps to acknowledge how you can improve or where you missed the mark. “You should also research within your organisation about what the performance standards are and what your role’s expectations are,” said Wearne. This will give you a clearer understanding of what is expected of you.

3. Manage negative feedback

It can be tough to receive negative feedback, even when it’s well-intended. Positive self-talk can help to minimise any negative effects. Potter noted if she reframed how she thought about a feedback discussion as continuous improvement even if she disagreed with what they’re saying, it helped her contextualise the conversation. Feedback is about making you stronger, so adopting a growth mindset will help you to appreciate it as a lesson, no matter how difficult it is to hear sometimes.

4. Give feedback in everyday contexts

You should give positive and negative feedback as often as possible to all your colleagues, as informal feedback can aid continuous improvement. If someone in the team has done something good, respond with a compliment and three pieces of positive feedback. Giving them specific positive feedback immediately ensures they know how to replicate their good work. “Don’t be afraid to share the positive feedback that you have received to your boss and superiors. By doing this, you open a platform for discussion between your boss and the other employees,” said Tilden.

5. Learn to give negative feedback

The most important part of giving negative feedback is having empathy for the other person. “Aim to flip the reflection onto that person and give them an opportunity to speak about how they think they’re performing,” Wearne suggests. If they are able to identify some of the issues, you can temper the discussion based on their response. “Try and get through the negative feedback as quickly as possible and then focus on improvement strategies and future planning,” said Tilden. To ensure the person receiving the feedback is listening rather than becoming anxious, you should approach it as a continuous improvement discussion.

Potter gave an example of how she would approach giving negative feedback to an employee:

We need to have some difficult conversations today and there are going to be some points that we need to discuss that might be surprising or difficult to hear, but I really hope you stick with me through this conversation. The most important thing we will bring out of this conversation is a list of goals that you’re looking forward to working towards. This is really important to me because I really like having you on the team and I love how we work together. I am doing this with every member of my team to ensure everyone has goals that they’re working towards.

6. Feed up

Giving upwards feedback can be exceptionally difficult, especially if it’s critical. One approach is to treat the feedback as a positive. Try to frame it in a way that says ‘I care about you and I care about the team’. If you can’t find an appropriate way to do this, you can take advantage of opportunities such as anonymous surveys. Firms typically take this feedback seriously, as they understand it is difficult for people to provide it in person.

While feedback sometimes appears to be daunting and can be difficult to receive, it’s a crucial part of career growth. By continually reminding yourself of that the process is a positive it will help develop your career and if you take on board the feedback it will help improve your performance. Importantly, if you implement the advice given by these panelists about giving feedback upwards, it will showcase your skills as a leader and demonstrate that you understand what’s needed to help shape and succeed in your career, if it's done appropriately.

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