How to Give Constructive Feedback: Tips & Examples

It's being said that effective feedback is a vital part of professional development, as it improves performance and motivation and also strengthens relationships between peers. But as it always is, easier said than done. 

According to a Harvard Business Review article, over a third (37%) of managers said that they're uncomfortable having to give direct feedback about their employees' performance if they think the employee might respond negatively to the feedback.

In this article, you will find tips that will help you formulate feedback that your colleagues will understand and greatly appreciate!

Why is it worth making an effort to give feedback?

Before we take a look at how to give constructive feedback, let's briefly discuss why it is essential to incorporate giving feedback into your daily work routine.

Feedback helps to improve the employees' efficiency by giving important insight, but it also can be an opening of the discussion, which leads to other changes. Besides sharing an opinion about one's work, you also get their perspective on this matter. Maybe they lacked resources, or they faced unexpected blockers? Perhaps some processes are ineffective? Thus, you can focus not only on the expected performance improvement but also think together about a broader perspective and other factors that should be changed to avoid potential problems in the future.

Giving and receiving feedback also works as a great motivation booster. If an employee receives feedback, even negative, they know that someone cares enough to pay attention to their work and communicate. Positive feedback shows the value that someone brings to work, improves self-esteem and the level of engagement.

When it comes to feedback, the intent is everything. When you make it plain, and the official company's communication supports the view that giving feedback means caring about others' work, development, and performance, everything becomes easier. Employees tend to understand that accepting and sharing feedback is a pillar of a transparent and trustworthy company culture, where people's voice truly matters.

How to create quality feedback?

In a Harvard Business Review study, 72% of respondents said they thought their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback. But the way feedback is formulated and delivered is the key to success: in the same study, 92% of the respondents agreed with the assertion, "Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance."

Let me guide you through some rules we shared at Tidio to help our teams create effective and empathetic constructive feedback. 

Rule 1: Don't let your emotions overtake a course of conversation 

Also, keep in mind that our mood influences how we perceive things. It's true that feedback should revolve around the situation we refer to as close as possible. Still, if you don't calm down, your tone and body language show negative emotions, potentially overwhelming the receiver.

Rule 2: Refer to the specific action or behavior, not the person 

Talk about observable things; if your message can be backed by data or indicators - use them. Putting the accents on objective, concrete elements instead of assigning meaning or intent to one's actions ensures that feedback doesn't sound like a personal attack.

Rule 3: Offer the opportunity to talk and listen

After sharing your observation, it's worth asking, "What do you think about it?" or saying, "I would gladly know your perspective." You may not only learn about circumstances and factors you didn't know about, but also it shows that you treat your colleague as a partner. It proves care and good intention.

Rule 4: Make the expectations specific and clear

After you share your feedback and learn your colleague's perspective, it's time for action points. Create a time-bounded list of things that should get improved. If any additional help is needed - add it to the list. It's a kind of agreement you could later refer to.

Worth noticing: everyone is different (it's quite an obvious thing, isn't it?), so if you know your colleague a little, try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what kind of message would be the most effective for them. Some people prefer to get more context; for others, concise and direct communication work the best. We also present different levels of emotional sensitivity. Team-wide workshops are a helpful method to get to know each other better and learn how to adjust communication with a specific person. There are many fantastic models and tools that will perfectly serve this purpose; Insights Discovery is the one I can highly recommend for learning about communication preferences within a team.

Feedback frameworks 

Perfection comes with practice. To feel more confident on your way to excelling at giving feedback, you can stick to some models that help to structure your communication, dividing it into several easy-to-follow stages. 

The framework we recommend at Tidio is a CORDE model. It's based on Kim Scott's concept called radical candor. Radical candor is a leadership philosophy based on the "challenge directly and care personally" approach. It can be applied in many aspects of leadership, especially in giving radical candid feedback. 

CORDE is an acronym that refers to the following stages of feedback: Context, Observation, Result, Discussion, and Expectation. And here is example of giving feedback to your colleagues based on this model:

"Jenny, your today's presentation lacked the data we talked about last week. This data is insightful and would help the team better understand how we contributed to the company's strategic goals this quarter. I'm afraid the presentation isn't fully understandable without it, and team members may still have some questions and concerns. What happened? I remember you had access to this information, so I wonder why you haven't used it. [...]. How, in your opinion, could such a situation be avoided in the following quarter summary?[...]. Okay, so let's stick to these action points!"

The second feedback framework, slightly shorter, is a McKinsey feedback model that consists of three parts: the Action, the Feeling, and the Feedback. A communication based on this model would look like this:

"Jenny, your today's presentation lacked the data we talked about last week. I must admit it makes me feel confused, and I wonder why you haven't used it. It's essential to include such information in the following quarter's presentation."

McKinsey's model is shorter and, therefore, easier to use; however, for more complex cases, I recommend using the CORDE model since it opens room for discussion and gives your colleague ownership for creating ideas to solve the problem.

From feedback to a feedback culture

The ability to share sincere and empathetic feedback must be developed like any other skill. Bringing awareness on the role of feedback and highlighting that it should always come from care leads to cementing feedback-based culture. In such a place, people feel psychologically safe to accept and share feedback and appreciate its role in enhancing their self-awareness. The learning path isn't always easy, and mistakes are an inherent part of it. At the end of the day, neglecting communication and making your colleagues believe that they're doing well when in truth, they are not, it's a very unfair thing to do, right? 

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