Providing Effective Feedback

How To Provide Effective Feedback

  1. Tell them what they did well!
  2. Be specific about which things they did well.
  3. Tell them how they can make it even better.
  4. NO BUTS!

   Providing effective feedback is not only important in business but in2011 TIOW Spring Graduation 030 every aspect of life itself. I don’t care of you are the CEO of a MultiNational Corporation, a mid-level executive, sales manager, business coach, minor supervisor, retail manager, little league coach, teacher or parent, you need to know how to provide feedback to those around you.

   The steps above may sound simplistic but they are a great developmental tool. I will explain how and why they work and even provide some examples.

   OK, so why is this method so effective? What’s the big deal? How does it work and why? Let us look at it in more detail.


Tell them what they did well! 

   As a society, especially in Canada we are used to hearing what we did wrong. Managers or other authority figures are quick to point out your failures. The problem with that is that it is reinforcing a negative! This in turn makes the person feel bad about whatever they have just done.

   At some point in our lives we have all faced up to and heard things like the following;

“Well, you really screwed the pooch on that one!” or “What the hell did you think you were doing?” or the ever popular “No, no, no! That’s not the right way to do that!”  So, tell me, how did that make you feel?

   Nobody likes to receive criticism and as Canadians we already have a tendency to be overly critical of ourselves. So if it is your responsibility (or even just your urge) to provide feedback make it useful & effective by being POSITIVE.

   Not everybody can come up with positives right away, so buy yourself some time by asking them how they felt they did. Often there will be an insight that you can use to bridge to your opinion Canadians will almost always reply by telling you what they did poorly and that in turn saves you from having to bring it up. Now you can implement step one.

   Pick out some part of what they did that was done well and reinforce it by using step one to  tell them what they did well.

   Why? You want to reinforce the positives. If the person or persons you are giving the feedback to are doing parts of the project, assignment or presentation correctly, you want to encourage them to continue to do those things. You want to remind them of what it was that they did correctly because you want them to keep on doing it.

   It also makes the person you are giving  feedback to feel better about themselves and more receptive to any subsequent suggestions you might make. Everybody enjoys receiving a little praise.


Be specific about which things they did well

   Providing positive effective feedback DOES NOT go “I thought you did pretty well but you need to do this & that.” If you are going to tell them what they did well you have to target something specific from what they just said or did and put the emphasis on that. It shows that you were paying attention throughout what they said or did.

   Truly strong steps one & two sound more like this.

  1. “I was very impressed with your presentation technique today.”
  2. “I was particularly pleased with the way your related our product benefits to the customer’s application.”

   See how simple that is? On to steps 3 & 4.


Tell them how they can make it even better.

   This is the point where you tell them what you want them to improve on. Be very careful to phrase it in a very positive light so that it makes them want to implement whatever suggestion you are making.

   Remember that at this point you are introducing a suggestion for a change in behavior. It is something that you want them to do differently and you have earned the right to say it by being positive, telling them what they did right and emphasizing a specific aspect of what they did right. An example might go something like this.

3.   “You could have made your presentation even more powerful if you had also shown them how our products also save them time and money.”

  My examples are generic because the words are less important than the format. You can select any sets of words to insert into this format as long as you are using the format.



   Did you notice that the word “but” or “however” never appeared in my examples? Why is that? From a psychological point of view, no matter how pretty you make steps one and two sound if you insert the word BUT between steps 2 & 3 you will lose your audience. Pretty much all people here after the word “but” when they are getting feedback is “Blah, blah, blah.”

   Most people’s thoughts when they hear the word “but” during feedback is “OK, here it comes……” and they know it isn’t good and what;s worse is that it negates the positive reinforcement that you were trying to give them in steps one & two. So step four isn’t really a step at all. It is an attitude. It is a conscious effort on your part to keep negativity from creeping into any of your performance reviews, coaching or day-to-day feedback.

   Implement these techniques at every level of your organization and train all of your supervisors at every level from the top down and make it a part of your corporate culture. It will improve moral. performance and retention.

  1. ” I liked the way you outlined the four steps of providing effective feedback”
  2. “I especially liked the way that you explained how and why each of the steps worked”
  3. “You could have made it a stronger article by providing more specific examples and maybe some visuals.”

   Just as a last point of interest, I have seen this format used successfully with sales professionals and even children as young as 3 years old.

  1. Tell them what they did well
  2. Be specific
  3. Tell them how to improve
  4. No buts.