We’ve all been there. The feedback intended to be helpful and practical somehow turned out to be not so beneficial after all.
In leadership, we give people room to move and grow. It allows mistakes to be made and lessons to be learned. When we think of feedback as something to dread instead of another layer of learning, we’re pushing ourselves into anxiety’s corner. Feedback isn’t something to fear whether you’re receiving or delivering it. Both give opportunities for growth. Even though we may not like it at the time, appropriate and effective feedback can (and will) serve as a springboard for growth.
Feedback helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses and improve our work. However, when done improperly, feedback can be damaging rather than constructive. People aren’t unreceptive to harsh criticism—it rightfully gets under our skin. It also leaves us with no room to learn and grow but instead gives us a lingering feeling of failure and resentment.
Giving feedback is an integral part of leadership, but it can be tricky to deliver it effectively. Feedback should be clear, concise, and specific. It’s also important to be aware of your tone when providing feedback, as you don’t want to sound critical or demeaning.
Example of delivering effective feedback
I really appreciate how quickly you joined in as the newest member of our team, and it’s fantastic that you’re finishing projects ahead of schedule. I noticed you’ve overlooked some details in your previous projects, such as (example) and (example). Unfortunately, those oversights delayed the team since they had to go back and address them, which lengthened the approval process.
For your next project, let’s develop a detailed checklist of everything you need to make sure you’re not missing anything. Please give it a go, and then we’ll review it together.
Example of delivering ineffective feedback
As the newest member of the team, you’re also the one who’s received the most recent training. You’ve left out a lot of details in your projects, and you’re affecting the team’s ability to function correctly. You missed blatant errors and dropped the ball on your last projects. This behavior is unacceptable, and if you are incapable of doing the job, you should tell me now.
Are you delivering feedback?
- In a positive tone?
- With space for the other person’s perspective and thoughts?
- Without unsolicited advice?
- With specifics about the issue?
- Privately and face-to-face?
- With solutions, follow-up, and support?
If providing feedback had us wishing to have root canals rather than the conversation, another scenario could make those stomachs sink even further. Being called into the office to receive feedback.
Suddenly, our 6th-grade selves have sweaty palms and instant doom. The reason for the meeting is unclear, but our anxieties will certainly paint the picture for us. The continuous loop leads us to think (and not stop thinking) about everything we may have done wrong. Yet never once thinking about what we’ve done right. It’s almost like we’re conditioned for the bad news.
A positive example of receiving feedback
I appreciate you meeting with me privately about those overlooked details in my previous projects. What I hear you saying is that although I believed we were meeting deadlines, we actually aren’t. This delay is due to the additional responsibilities I placed on the team to correct my mistakes.
I was so eager to join the team that I overlooked essential items instead of slowing down and paying attention to even the smallest of details. My goal is to prepare that detailed list for you to review on Tuesday. If you could check in with me every few weeks to let me know if I’m on the right track, I would greatly appreciate your feedback.
A negative example of receiving feedback
Wow, this is incredible. I’m the top performer on the team. Without my productivity, this team would fail. I won’t apologize for my minor mistakes. Those mistakes give Jim something to do rather than text and play games on his phone all day.
I appreciate that you took the time to discuss this with me, and I have a few issues I need to discuss with you too. I feel I’m being targeted for my performance, and other team members are jealous of me. How are you addressing Sandy’s tardiness and Ted’s attitude?
Feedback is critical for growth
If you’ve received hurtful, unwarranted, or unconstructive “feedback,” in our view, that is not feedback but rather destructive criticism.
The feedback we’re discussing is a gift—a gift of growth. Whether it’s an honest critique of our performance or an acknowledgment of our efforts, receiving feedback is one of the most valuable tools we have for learning and growth.
By listening to what others have to say about our performance, we can gain new insights into how we can improve. And by sharing our observations and reflections with others, we give them an invaluable opportunity to learn and change.
Ultimately, effective feedback allows us to build stronger connections with those around us, strengthening our relationships and helping us to become better individuals in the process. So when you get the next chance to offer or receive feedback, remember that it truly is a gift—one that holds great power for good—when treated with respect and humility.