The 6 Steps of Giving Feedback
Updated: Mar 13
Photo by Charles Deluvio
Giving feedback is one of the most difficult interpersonal skills to master. We fear that others will get offended or that it will damage our relationships. However if no one tells us when we make a mistake, there is no way for us to learn and improve.
Effective feedback is best approached as a learning opportunity. Both parties collaborate to identify the source of tension and strategize on how to grow and improve. Feedback should be timely and regular.
Below are the 6 steps for delivering effective feedback:
1 - Connect
The Human Business Model (from The Speech Improvement Company) is a powerful tool for building connection. The model begins every conversation on the human level, transitions to the topic at hand, and ends on the human level once more.
When you sit down to deliver feedback, begin with a personal connection. This can be as simple as :
“How are you today? How are you feeling?”
2 - Describe
In the next step, describe the issue you would like to address, as well as the impact it is having on yourself or others. Focus on the challenge itself, not the person. Use “I” language to describe how you feel. If the other person begins to seem defensive, it is often helpful to go back to the larger impact their behavior is causing.
“I noticed over the last two weeks you missed two or three of the daily stand-up calls.”
“Other team members who were relying on your updates weren’t able to move forward on their own tasks.”
3 - Listen
This is an opportunity for the person receiving feedback to check their understanding. They may ask clarifying questions, or paraphrase what they heard. Take the time to go back and forth until the person delivering feedback feels heard.
4 - Reflect
Now it is time for the person receiving feedback to share their own point of view. What is their understanding of why the problem occurs? How do they feel about the situation? Were they aware that their actions were creating tension for others?
As the feedback giver, focus on understanding and empathy. Ask questions and paraphrase. Reflecting back what the person has said does not necessarily mean that you agree, but it shows a respect for their perspective. Go back and forth until the feedback receiver feels fully heard.
“Ah, so it sounds like you missed the call because you were dealing with an urgent customer issue. Is that correct? Am I missing anything?”
5 - Collaborate for Change
Work together to create a plan of action that addresses the issue. It is important that both parties buy in to the solution, or else the changes won’t stick.
“So it seems like there is a conflict between dealing with immediate customer needs and your longer term deliverables. What are some ways we could address this? Could we shift some of your current responsibilities to the customer support team?”
6 - Connection
As the Human Business Model recommends, end the conversation the same way you began, on a personal note. Let the other person know that you value them, and appreciate taking the time to work through an issue.
“Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I really appreciate all the work you’ve put in to this project.”