How To Give Good Feedback (And Why It Matters)

Giving and receiving feedback is something everyone has to do in their professional lives. But what is feedback? How do you give good, constructive feedback? And how can you use it to become better at your job?

What is Feedback?

It may seem simple, but many people forget the heart behind feedback, which is defined as "information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement." Feedback is all about getting better. Feedback is often seen as a negative thing, and some people find it a nuisance, and it can sometimes be taken too personally. But feedback, not necessarily criticism, should be a positive. Especially if it is given and received with the right attitude. We all sometimes need to hear what can be done better next time. In this blog we will explore everything related to giving and receiving feedback along with some helpful insight from Patrick Kostwinder, a trainer at Brunel.

Feedback: A Gift?

Suppose it’s your birthday and you receive a present from a loved one. They give you the ugliest shirt you've ever seen and it's 3 sizes too small. There are many different approaches to a situation like this. Some people may just smile and say "thank you" before going home and tossing the shirt in the donation pile. This is not good feedback.

Some people may instead get angry and say "this is the worst gift ever!!!", that is not feedback, that is criticism. You’ve made your point but you've put the gift-giver on the defensive while not giving them a concrete tip about what can be improved. They feel overwhelmed, and in the end nothing changes.

"Giving feedback as a gift? That is only possible when care and attention has been paid to the feedback and the other person really benefits from it."

Conversational Techniques to Provide Feedback

"In practice, too often I still see that feedback leads nowhere, like a dead-end street. How do you ensure it's a two-way street, that a feedback conversation is constructive? Giving feedback is nothing more than describing the behavior of the other and its effect on you. If you manage to use this technique, then chances are the other person is open to really listen to you. What you say determines the impact. So instead of saying: 'I really can't do anything with that nervous fiddling you’re doing with that pen,' say: 'I saw that you were tapping your pen and that distracted me. If next time you leave your pen on the table, I'll be able to give you my full attention and feel like I'm receiving yours as well.' The tip does not just fall out of the blue.

Is receiving feedback better with a compliment?

"Making sure someone is open to feedback is different from sugar-coating: 'You're really doing well, great! I have a list of points for improvement for you here.' Better not. This can debunk your carefully-prepared message by saying, 'Your presentation was actually excellent, really, great!' This ensures the recipient will no longer see the need to listen carefully to the tip. Also not handy: giving a compliment about a nice shirt and then naming a series of development points about behavior. I have nothing against giving a compliment to make someone feel good, as long as it is sincere, relevant and well-timed."

Feedback: give tips and do it in the situation itself

"Remember that a good feedback conversation is meant to give someone feedback on his or her behavior or attitude, where you give concrete advice on how to do things better. You name the positive effects that this change offers. For best results, give feedback immediately and otherwise as soon as possible after observing the behavior. Returning to it six months later is a waste of time for you, and especially for the other person. You may have been brooding on it for a long time, but that other person may no longer have a clue what you're talking about. That makes the conversation a missed opportunity. Not necessary!" 

Looking for a Job?

Brunel is a recruiting/staffing firm dedicated to connecting the top specialists in the world with pioneering projects in the Oil and Gas, Life Sciences, Renewable Energy and Mining industries. You can view more information about current job openings here.