Project LeadershipProject Management

How to Give Actionable and Effective Feedback

Everyone wants to give effective feedback to their team, but making sure it sticks takes some work. It’s easy to rattle off someone’s flaws and tell them to fix it. There needs to be a tactful approach to providing feedback that can get your point across while keeping your team members’ spirits up. In a post at her blog, Susanne Madsen gives some guidelines on how to give constructive, specific, and well-meaning feedback:

  • Use self-directed feedback.
  • Give layered feedback.
  • Be specific and give examples.
  • Create an open dialogue.

Feeding Your Feedback

An effective start with feedback is to have your team member conduct self-directed feedback. This means that an individual evaluates their own performance on a task. Ask them some questions about how they think they are doing–what has gone well and what could be going better. Ideally, they will identify the areas for improvement that you were hoping to talk about, which will make it easier to segue gently into discussing those topics.

Another good tactic is to use layered, or “sandwiched,” feedback, which places positive comments around negative ones. This would be set up sequentially as discussing something they did well, an area for improvement, and then another good point. These positives have to be honest and genuine praise in order to work, so make sure it’s authentic.

As you give feedback, keep it on specific areas to avoid confusion:

When you give your feedback, be specific about what you think the team member is doing well and what you would like to see changed. If you’re too generic, for instance by saying, “That was great” or “That didn’t really work for me”, the team member won’t know how to improve. If they knew, they would have already done it. It would be more helpful if you said “Your report gives some good facts and figures on page three. I think it would benefit from being more succinct, especially in section one. Perhaps you could do that by adding a few graphs and charts.”

Ultimately, there needs to be an open dialogue between you two. Give them plenty of opportunities to respond and to express their own perspectives on the topic. Combining this with the above tactics can ensure that the feedback you give is positive and productive.

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