Stop giving feedback!

One definition of feedback is the annoying sound that happens when sound loops like when a microphone gets too close to the speaker. It makes us want to hold our ears. Do you ever feel like that when you receive feedback? Or even worse, do people hold their ears when you give them feedback?

There are a lot of different opinions on feedback. Some scientists doubt the effect of it, especially if it is used as a leadership tool.

Some of the reasoning is that our brains react towards feedback as a threat. This might lead to the conclusion that feedback should be mainly positive. However, can we learn from positive feedback? And if we can't what is then the point?

Did you ever get one of these comments: ”I like the way you handled that project. Well done.” Nice, right? Feels good? It does, but does it tell you anything about what exactly you did well? Will you know what to do next time to succeed again? Not necessarily.

So, how do you actually give positive feedback that someone can learn from? First step is to actually stop giving feedback. Seriously. Change your mindset to be giving a gift instead. Then you research how to give it and rehearse giving it. Because it really is a skill set that takes practicing.


Giving a gift

In simple terms a gift is given based on what the receiver wants to achieve. It is specific towards a goal that is important to that person. The purpose is to help the person move towards their goal by suggesting improvements. To do that you obviously have to understand where they are and where they want to go.

To quote Soren Kierkegaard:

"If One Is Truly to Succeed in Leading a Person to a Specific Place, One Must First and Foremost Take Care to Find Him Where He is and Begin There."

It is a humble process where you put yourself in someone else's shoes and focus on that persons good qualities - and how they might improve.


A 3-step process

Perhaps you have heard of the burger/sandwich, AID or other models for feedback. They might work well for you. What is still lacking in my opinion is the mindset behind. I believe these three simple steps should be the ground stones for good feedback:

  1. Know what the person you give feedback to wants to achieve
  2. Put yourself in the mindset of giving that person a gift
  3. Be as detailed as you can possibly be

Know that your feedback is your opinion. The person receiving it might fight to take it in and it is important to respect that. The more detailed you can be the easier it will be to receive it because it feels less personal to discuss say a specific quote than discussing overall communication skills.

My experience in giving and receiving feedback is that if it is actually given as a gift it feels like one.


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