How do you provide constructive feedback when your inner voice is shouting ‘yes, it looks awful!’

Whether you’re a manager, a client, a parent or friend we’ve all been there when we are asked….. ‘How did I do?...’ or ‘What do you think….’. But how comfortable do you really feel about giving feedback? When the person has done a great job or looks great in that meringue wedding dress, it’s a joy to feedback but when it’s a disaster it’s not so easy.

When we get it right, feedback can provide invaluable insight, here is my guidance on helping you deliver feedback with a constructive purpose.

Setting the scene. Take a look around, is your setting conducive to a meaningful conversation. For the receiver to benefit from your efforts they need to be receptive to what you are going to share with them. Make sure you have a quiet area where you can be free from disruptions. Maybe you’ve not been asked for the feedback but you need to give it. Be clear about why and what you hope will change as a result. ‘I want to share some feedback with you as I think it will help you be even more successful.’ ‘I’d like to share with you some feedback as I think I can help you shorten the process.’

Take an emotional temperature check. Consider the emotional state of the receiver and yourself. If temperaments are strained or tension is in the air, then it might not be the best time to deliver a constructive message. The receiver is unlikely to listen and take on board your comments and you may not be in the best place to deliver the message that needs to be given. In this scenario, give yourself some breathing space and tell them that you want to think about it, or find a way to excuse yourself from the situation for a few moments to let tensions calm down. While it is always best to feedback in a timely manner when events are still fresh there are occasions when you need to hit the pause button.

Don’t overload. Ok so it may have been the worst performance ever, but telling the recipient that and pulling out every single failing is unlikely to be valuable. Instead, consider the two to three key items that would make the biggest difference and focus on these.

Avoid character assassination. Focus on the actual behaviours and the impact it is having on the family, team, customer experience. Be specific and stick to facts, what you know first-hand so that there is less room for ambiguity.

Tailor to the person. Consider the individual’s need; remember the feedback is for them not for you. Maybe you have provided feedback in the past or shared some difficult news, what worked well and didn’t. Be open and sensitive and focus on ‘I’ statements instead of you. ‘I felt like this when this happened…’ as opposed to ‘YOU did x and then YOU did y‘ to avoid an accusational tone making it easier for the individual to accept and appreciate the impact.

It’s a two-way thing. While you need to ensure it’s the right time and setting and know what you want to focus on, avoid having a one sided conversation, instead ask questions. Perhaps start by asking them how they thought it went. After you’ve given them feedback ask them for their thoughts. It also creates the environment for you to have some meaningful dialogue about changes that could take place. This was a technique I would use with performance reviews it would help me understand how far away from each other we were in our assessment and help me establish the right tone for the meeting.

Feedback can be hard to give, but with a little bit of thought and following these tips you can be giving a wonderful gift.

So with that in mind, tell me what you think!

Have some difficult messages to give and need some help then why not explore an individual coaching session.