Neither end of the feedback spectrum comes easily. Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, there are challenges to overcome. Likely, your feedback style is a hodgepodge of those who came before you. And that's ok. But as something we practice daily, we could all benefit from sharpening our approach to delivering feedback effectively.
Pay attention. And wait until the end of the presentation. So much time in meetings is lost because people are asking questions that will be addressed on the next slide or because they simply were responding to a slack, email, text or whatever while someone was presenting and missed a core portion of the information. By simply being present and polite enough to wait until the end, you’ll likely save everyone time and effort.
Start with what you liked. It’s not that difficult to kick off the feedback train on a positive note. At a bare minimum, acknowledge the work that was done to get to this point. It’ll make the recipients of the feedback more receptive to your notes.
Ask questions. Asking before assuming will help you provide more informed feedback. It can help shed light on what someone’s intentions were, allowing you to give sharper feedback on how to make that clearer. Plus, asking questions shows you’re interested in what was presented and engaged in understanding it.
Say why. When you get to parts of a presentation or project that, in your opinion, need to be changed, share the problem you’re trying to solve and why it is something that needs solving. Sharing your ideas for solutions can be helpful, but don’t forget to mention the problem you’re trying to solve too. That way, the people working on the project can also help come up with solutions and build on your suggestions.
Be honest. If you like something as it is, don’t feel the need to make changes just to “put your stamp on it.” It’s the work equivalent of sending back a bottle of perfectly good wine just to prove that you can. And if you don’t know why you don’t like something, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” More time and money is wasted trying to fix things that were never problems in the first place because people are afraid to say, “I don’t know why, but I just don’t like it. Can we try something else?”
Be aware. Understand what stage the work is in and how your feedback impacts its evolution. If you want to start over and the deadline is tomorrow, be aware that addressing your feedback is costing someone hours of their personal life and a lot of sleep. Alternatively, if someone’s had 30 seconds to make a PB&J sandwich and you were hoping for a Michelin Star-winning lunch, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Be aware of the constraints people are working with and adjust your feedback accordingly. Or adjust the constraints.
When giving feedback, remember that most teams want to find ways to make their work better. Keeping these six simple steps in mind can help you empower your team to push the work and create better results for everyone involved.