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Giving and Receiving Feedback

April 24, 2010

As a recent recipient of unpleasant feedback, I would like to share my thoughts on giving and receiving feedback.

Giving Feedback:

Giving feedback is a sacred trust.  You are critiquing a human being and need to respect them as a person.  First, look at what information the person was given to do the task.  Was the information clear and complete?  Did the person have the skills, tools and knowledge to perform the task?  Was the request reasonable?  What was your role in the outcome?  What obstacles did the person experience during the performance of the activity or task?

Second, is your feedback focused on the performance or on the person?   Feedback should always be focused on the performance.  It should outline where the performance missed the mark and how it can be improved in the future.  Feedback that is not constructive and based on how to improve is noise.  Noise is not helpful and is usually an obstacle to performance improvement.

Third, feedback needs context.  No performance is completely bad or good, but falls somewhere between.   Acknowledge where performance met or exceeded standards, as well as clearly outline where performance did not meet the standard.

Receiving Feedback:

Receiving and responding to feedback is how we learn and improve.  First, and foremost, you must know yourself.  No easy task .  However, to receive feedback effectively and use it to improve your performance, you must have a strong sense of who you are, what your strengths and weakness are, and be able to objectively assess your own performance.

Second, when receiving the feedback, listen for the kernel of truth.  It is in there!  It may be wrapped in emotional baggage and ugliness, but it is in there.  Strip away your emotional response to the feedback and look at it from an objective point of view.  Unfortunately many people do not give useful feedback.  They either make it an attack, or they shy away from the perceived  conflict.  Neither choice is helpful.

Third, acknowledge the feedback and appreciate it for its merits.  Giving feedback requires courage and usually indicates that the person giving the feedback wants to help you improve your performance.  If , as Bacon says, “Knowledge is Power”, then self  knowledge is the ultimate power.  Take the lesson and move on.

Fourth, request further information and recommendations for performance improvement.  If the person giving feedback genuinely wants to help you improve your performance, they will appreciate that you asked for more information and want to improve.

Final Thoughts:

The opportunity to give feedback is not a license for personal attacks,  character assassination or verbal “vomiting”.  Choose your words and tone carefully when you are giving feedback.  If your feedback does not contain recommendations for improvement, then it is not feedback.  It’s called  complaining or whining, and is better left unsaid.

When receiving feedback, consider the source, their motivations and their authority to give the feedback.  Beware the “armchair jockey”, they talk a good game but never leave the bench.

Life offers many opportunities to give and receive feedback.  Do both wisely, respectfully and with the intent to improve performance.

I leave you with what I can consider the best way to communicate the truth –

The Rotary’s 4 Way Test

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?



Giving and Receiving Feedback

Giving Feedback

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