Feedback – the gentler path

I have long been a believer in the value of feedback.  However, I can’t help wincing internally when I remember the company I worked for that introduced feedback as a standard approach / tool.  Someone would approach you, full of self righteousness, with the phrase “Can I give you some feedback..?”  What followed was usually negative and often nasty, and you were just supposed to take it.  It takes real skill to deliver feedback well.  If you do it in such a way that makes the recipient go into their defensive shell, they won’t hear what you have to say, no matter how well intentioned. 

A common approach is the ‘Feedback Sandwich’ which suggests saying something positive, then your negative message, followed by another positive statement.   The trouble with this, is again, if not done skilfully, people tend to disregard the positives as so much much ‘flannel’ and just here the nasty bit.

So here is another way that might work better for you.  Find something good about what they have done and say “What I like about this is…” and then follow it up by “And what would make me really love it would be…”  This is honest and likely to meet less resistance to improvement. 

As with all feedback, if your genuine intention is to help them improve and grow, this communicates; if it is a thinly veiled way of telling them they are cr*p, that is what they will hear.

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