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How to turn feedback into a gift

Feedback is often touted as a gift. However, many wish it came with a return receipt, allowing for exchanges when necessary.

There’s a myriad of perspectives on feedback. Drawing from extensive literature, we’ve attempted to outline some ‘best practices’, though it’s important to note that this isn’t exhaustive. Our preliminary conclusion is that giving feedback is a multifaceted process.

Let’s start with our definition of feedback (at least for this post): providing information about performance.

Let’s start with 5 insights

Here are five insights on the context for delivering effective feedback:

  • Learning organizations that encourage feedback-seeking behavior lay the groundwork for effective feedback.

  • Transformational leadership (coaching, inspiring, and sharing knowledge) establishes an environment conducive to effective feedback.

  • Proper goal setting (utilizing a learning goal when necessary, setting group-level objectives, and establishing clear, committed, and challenging goals) acts as a solid foundation for effective feedback.

  • Clearly communicated standards within organizations bolster the effectiveness of feedback.

  • Psychological safety (focusing on a non-personal comfort zone) is crucial for effective feedback.

Shifting to a more practical lens, here are some hands-on insights:

  1. Feedback is most effective when given soon after performance, for instance, during an after action review (AAR).

  2. Objective, data-driven feedback about a specific task accompanied by clear next steps is highly effective.

  3. Unsolicited feedback is effective only when it’s constructive.

  4. Negative feedback mainly reinforces preventive behavior.

  5. Digitalized feedback (generated by a system) is often more impactful than personal feedback.

One final and crucial insight we value deeply:

Offering unsolicited feedback about someone’s personality typically does more harm than good.

Wishing you success in your feedback endeavors!


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