My blog

How to provide feedback that actually IS constructive!

Giving feedback can be challenging. There are very few people who enjoy telling another person that the work they did wasn’t up to scratch, or that their contribution fell short.


Providing constructive feedback is something you are rarely taught, so more often than not, people model the behaviour they have seen demonstrated by others in the workplace.  And this technique is usually the arsenic sandwich!

Come on, you know it, you’ve probably been handed one yourself. It starts by someone saying something nice or flattering (I really like that top!), then they go in for the kill with some brutal negative feedback and finish off with another positive comment.  The problem with this is that while the bread might hide the filling, the sandwich still tastes awful!  And rather than taking this feedback on board, the recipient is just left with a bad taste in their mouth and a sense negativity.

So, if you want to give feedback that genuinely is constructive, that feels collaborative, support and has a high likelihood of being taken on board, try this technique of feed-forward!

 Step 1 – SETTING CONTEXT

Agree on the timing, length and place of discussion, in a non-confrontational way.

For example; “Would you be happy if we had a catch-up on X project this week?  How about at 10am on Thursday – we can set aside one hour in my office?  It would be great if you could bring the latest project plan so that we can go through it together.”

Versus; ‘I will put some time in for us to meet on Thursday as I want to give you some feedback on x project.”

Step 2 – DEFINING THE GOAL

At the beginning of the meeting, define the goal/outcomes that you want to achieve from your time together.

For example; “In this hour, I would like to start by focusing on what’s going well and then together look at areas where we can develop, so that we can walk away with an action plan.  Are you happy with that?”

Step 3 – SOLICIT THEIR POSITIVE FEEDBACK

Ask them what they think has been going well e.g.

  • What are the key things that you feel you have done well?
  • What are you most happy with to date?
  • Are you happy for me to share my observation of what went well?

* Be persuasive here, as our natural tendency is to jump to the negative and not pat ourselves on the back.  The brain focuses more on bad than good.

 Step 4 – SOLICIT THEIR CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

Ask them their thoughts around development areas and where improvements could be made e.g.

  • What would you do differently?
  • Do you feel there are any areas for development?
  • Would you change anything you did next time?
  • Any key learnings for you?

Step 5 – PROVIDE YOUR CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

Start by demonstrating support e.g. “I want to do whatever I can to support you in delivering this successfully.”

Start by providing feedback on the areas they have already identified. 

Introduce any new items of feedback in a constructive way e.g. “There is some feedback that I think might be useful for you in developing and progressing the project.  Are you happy for me to share that?”

Step 6 – CREATE A PLAN

Identify what action steps need to be taken to develop/improve.  Let the individual come up with these first, rather than you being directive.

This is where you need to keep the focus on the outcome, not the problem.

KEEP IN MIND
Throughout the process of providing feedback:

  • Speak in a neutral tone – no emotional charge in the voice
  • Focus on facts
  • If the feedback is going to be challenging for them, acknowledge that, and be clear on your goal for sharing it
  • Remember that sharing feedback is about expressing thoughts in a way that is of real value to the other person, not just a chance to say what you think
  • Asking permission and getting buy-in throughout the process will dampen down the threat response
Need some help in developing your feedback technique. Get in touch for a free chemistry session and find out how I can help!