Six keys to delivering better feedback

August 22, 2017 Matt Heinz

Earlier this year I had the honor of hearing Michael Friedman, managing director of CRA’s Leadership Practice, talk about leadership secrets to a group of B2B CMOs.  I wrote about his five critical markers of good character earlier.  Michael also shared six keys to delivering better feedback.  Each key is listed below with a bit of my commentary after.

1. Essential tone of feedback vs accuracy/utility
There is a difference between the facts of the feedback, the recommended or instructed changes inherent in the feedback, and how it is delivered.  Each is important, but the last part (how feedback is communicated) can nuke the value of the former.  Great managers know this, and work hard to hone their delivery skills accordingly.

2. Ask a question
You may know exactly what you want to share, and it very well may be faster to just say it.  But delivering feedback as dialogue instead of one-way directive makes the recipient feel part of the decision and more likely to follow the direction you prefer.

3. Balance critical feedback with compliments
You may have heard about the proverbial shit sandwich, but this is more genuine.  Mistakes often are borne of good intentions.  Recognize the intent and correct the execution to improve the outcome.

4. Feed “forward” in feedback
You get exactly the same outcome if you criticize past behavior vs instructing future behavior.  And yet, the recipient is typically far more open to hearing how they can improve on something they haven’t even done yet.

5. Be a “more of, less of” leader
Way too often feedback is given without direction.  We criticize (even constructively) without providing practical guidance.  We empower our people by being more specific, but also giving them a little more ownership of the specifics.  If you trust your team, give directional guidance vs micro-managed step-by-step detail.

6. Big picture, small correction, big picture
This one is simple but elusive.  Often we go straight to the action we want changed without putting it in context.  It takes a little more time to add that context, but it helps with understanding and motivation to change.  For example, reinforce the desired outcome, suggest a practical change to help get there, then confirm that everyone is working proactively to achieve that ultimate outcome.

Individually, these are small changes to how we might provide feedback.  Together, I’ve seen them make a dramatic difference.

Curious to hear what advice and/or best practices you’ve found most useful in delivering better feedback.

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