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Giving And Receiving Feedback As A Leader

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

In the world of business, feedback can have quite conflicting opinions, as some people believe that feedback does not help employees and only hinders their confidence. This is simply an example of the business providing unhelpful feedback since feedback should consist of both positives and negatives in order to be thorough and helpful to the employee receiving it. Small informal sharings of feedback happen daily to us all and it is just as important to keep formal feedback consistent and useful to the employee. It’s important to learn the do’s and dont’s of more emotional processes so, to begin, what is bad feedback? The most obvious first answer should be harsh feedback, it is unproductive to borderline scold someone for their work as you will only lower their self-esteem and perhaps make them overthink future processes. The negative parts of feedback should be given with care and respect or even some appreciation. You can’t go wrong appreciating the good efforts and attempts, it is better to discuss how to improve rather than to only state the negative and leave it at that. Another example of bad feedback is baseless positive feedback, this is when a leader may simply say “nice work” “you did good” or other small meaningless phrases. Feedback is supposed to be helpful so there should be attention to detail, recognise what your employee does well and call them out on it, specify the strengths you are seeing or compliment an improvement you’ve seen since the last project. Words of affirmation is a great reward for the hours spent on work, as people value the opinions of others it will always feel good to have efforts seen and appreciated. Now the do’s of feedback may also seem obvious but it always helps to go over even the obvious just in case. Firstly, positive feedback is critical to learning and progression so be sure to always pair any negative feedback with at least a little positive too, that way you can avoid causing negative feelings and will hopefully inspire some reflection and improvements rather than negative self-talk or a step back in confidence. On top of this, when giving people solutions to what you would like improved, it is better to attempt the approach of providing coaching rather than dumping the solution in one sentence and leaving it at that. There is no need to shy away from going in-depth with your feedback, so take the time to not only talk about it but also set times where you could offer further help if wanted. It can be difficult to pull people on the negatives, so a more modern way of thinking that may be useful is to label it as constructive criticism rather than negative feedback, we all have room to improve in many areas of life and employees will appreciate the honesty as long as what you are saying gets said with attentiveness and genuine thoughts. Harvard Business Review have a great example of how to give feedback, it reads the following; Here’s an example: “In our staff meeting this morning when we were discussing strategies for funding the new initiative, you interrupted Jessica while she was talking and said, “That idea will never work,” before she had a chance to finish. This left me feeling disappointed I didn’t get to hear more from her, and I was intimidated about sharing my ideas with the group.”

Such feedback is not judgmental (“You were wrong to interrupt Jessica”), not generalized (“You are always interrupting people”) and doesn’t analyze the reasons the individual behaved as he did (“Do you have no respect for other people’s ideas?”). As a result, it is more likely to be heard and considered rather than defensively rejected.

So how do you as a leader receive feedback from employees? A ley point to receiving feedback well is practising active listening, not all people are good listeners or you may not even realise that you are a bad one. By focusing on actively listening you should be immersing yourself in the conversation, avoid letting your mind wander and try to save your questions for when the employee is done talking. Interrupting could throw their train of thought or lead them to change their mind about giving honest feedback. Active listening also consists of summarising what you have heard, telling back to them in short what they just told you, (focus on the key points here and keep it short) this is best done in your own words to show how you are understanding what is being said, and then the conversation may continue if you misunderstood or you will simply receive a “yes that’s right” which if so, great job! Always be sure to show your appreciation for the honest feedback, this creates more psychological safety within your team and will encourage them to continue voicing their valuable opinions and will overall help you develop as a leader since you will have the feedback to back up your strong points as well as enough feedback to know where to improve next. As a team the best thing you can do is build each other up, when your employees feel valued, productivity can increase dramatically and you will create a safe and open space where healthy workplace culture will thrive. This is all important because feedback provides the tools needed for both personal and professional growth, and can even be the key motivator to begin these growths. By putting such a large focus on the development you are more likely to create teams that will be able to avoid making the same mistakes twice which will push you towards great success as a business.


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