How To Give Constructive Feedback in 6 Easy Steps

Posted by Dario Priolo on Wed, Mar 07, 2012 @ 08:27 AM

Researched and Edited by Christina Krenek

Without a doubt, knowing how to give constructive feedback is one of the most valuable skills you can have.

With the issue of feedback, we’ve already discussed situations when it’s essential to give feedback and presented 6 constructive strategies. Now, let’s continue with more detail about the 6-step process of giving constructive feedback in the workplace. Following these simple steps ensure your feedback is received well and encourages development.   

Step 1: State the constructive purpose of your feedback.

First, briefly state your purpose by indicating what you'd like to cover and why it's important. If you are initiating feedback, this focus gives the other person a heads up about how the conversation will go. If the other person has requested feedback, a focusing statement will make sure that you direct your feedback toward what the person needs. Remember to be clear and straight-to-the-point.

  • For example: "I have a concern about." "I feel I need to let you know." "I want to discuss." "I have some thoughts about."

Step 2: Describe specifically what you have observed.

Have a certain event or action in mind and be able to say when and where it happened, who was involved, and what the results were. Stick to what you personally observed and don't try to speak for others. Avoid talking vaguely about what the person "always" or "usually" does.  

For example: "Yesterday afternoon, when you were speaking with customers, I noticed that you kept raising your voice."

Step 3: Describe your reactions.

Explain the consequences of the other person's behavior and how you feel about it. Then give examples of how you and others are affected. Describing reactions or consequences allows the other person to see and understand the impact their actions are having on others, the team and the organization.

  • For example: "The staff member looked embarrassed and I felt uncomfortable about seeing the episode." "Shouting at co-workers is not acceptable behavior in this department."

Step 4: Give the other person an opportunity to respond.

Feedback is a two-way street, don’t forget to listen to what the other person has to say. Remain silent and meet the other person’s eye, indicating that you are waiting for answer. If the person hesitates to respond, ask an open ended question.

  • For example: "What do you think?" "What is your view of this situation?" "What is your reaction to this?" "Tell me, what are your thoughts?"

Step 5: Offer specific suggestions.

Whenever possible make your suggestions helpful by including practical, feasible examples. Offering suggestions shows that you have thought past your evaluations and moved to how to improve the situation. Constructive feedback is centered around development and coaching. Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue Airways, discusses effective feedback and highlights that “you have to care about the person and their development.”   

Even if people are working up to expected standards, they can always benefit from ideas that could help them perform better!

  • For example: "I sometimes write myself notes or color-coded post-its to remind myself to do something, you might find it helpful too." Or "During your next meeting, if you're not interested in all the details, you might try only asking specific questions about the information you are most interested in."

Step 6: Summarize and express your support

At the end of the conversation, it’s always important to review the major points you discussed. Summarize the action items, not the negative points of the other person's behavior. For corrective feedback, stress the main things you've discussed that the person could do differently and develop their skills. It’s important to always end on a positive note by expressing confidence in the person's ability to improve the situation.

  • For example: "As I said, the way the group has figured out how to cover phone calls has really lessened the number of phone messages to be returned. You've really followed through on a tough problem. Please keep taking the initiate on problems like that.”

By summarizing, you can avoid misunderstandings and check to make sure that your communication is clear. The summary is also an opportunity to show your support for the other person and an effective way to conclude even a negative feedback situation on a positive note.

Topics: Management, Coaching, Constructive Feedback