My weekly newsletter invites readers to send me suggestions for blog posts and recently I had several messages about how to give and receive feedback effectively. Feedback is part of our everyday lives – we check reviews before we eat out or go on holiday – and our working lives, whether we’re an employee of a large organisation or a solo entrepreneur.
As a post on Harvard Business Review recently said, good feedback is based on facts, not your opinion. What are some key components of effective feedback? It’s a topic that my coaching clients and I have discussed often and here are some elements we identified.
Feedback should be:
This isn’t about venting your frustrations, it’s about helping the recipient to improve.
A part of everyday life
Ed Batista counsels us to make feedback normal rather than part of a performance review. This allows us to give feedback in a timely fashion: why wait until an annual review to bring up something that happened eight months ago when you could nip it in the bud now? It also means that we reduce the anxiety people may feel about receiving feedback by not turning the conversation into a big deal.
Refers to actions and behaviour, not character
Compare the sentence ‘you’re a terrible listener’ to ‘when you spend our conversations checking your phone, it feels to me like you’re not listening’. The second demonstrates that you’ve noticed a particular behaviour and are giving feedback on the impression that creates.
In a similar vein, ‘you’re so quiet all the time’ could be discounted by the recipient as being rather vague and therefore not helpful. ‘You were very quiet in last Tuesday’s meeting’ reminds them of a specific event to which they can respond.
Not jumping to conclusions
We can sometimes add our own interpretations to an event. To take my previous example, you might say something like – ‘you were very quiet in last Tuesday’s meeting: was that because you felt the whole thing was a waste of time?’.
You may have hit the nail on the head: you may have completely missed the point. Try a more open approach – ‘you were very quiet in last Tuesday’s meeting: could you tell me a bit more about that’.
Need a framework for effective feedback?
Based on these elements, I’ve devised a simple mnemonic to help you stay on track when you give feedback: EIC.
E is for evidence
Get specific about the person’s behaviour or actions, not about their personality – ‘Paul, over the last four weeks, you’ve missed the noon on Friday deadline for sending me your team report.‘
I is for impact
Describe in non-emotional and specific terms the impact of the behaviour or actions on you, others or a situation –
‘That’s led to me being unable to include specific details of your team’s activity in my 4pm Friday report to the Board. Your team is missing out on an opportunity for their contribution to be noticed.’
C is for change
Encourage the other person to generate ideas for how to change, supporting and guiding as appropriate. We are more likely to take ownership of solutions we generate ourselves. Agree a timescale to review the changes.
‘What would enable you to get it to me on time?’ Paul comes up with some ideas, settles on one in particular, and you agree that he will trial that for the next month and then you will both review how it’s going.
Of course, if you are giving positive feedback, there is no need for change but rather than just saying ‘good job’, it’s far more useful and rewarding to give evidence and explain the impact –
‘Paul, since we talked about the need for you to be punctual delivering your Friday report, you’ve sent it in before noon every week. That’s meant that I’ve been able to include your team’s work in my report finished and get it out to the Board in time for the 4pm deadline. They’re really pleased with your team’s contribution. Thanks for helping me keep them informed.‘
Today’s pebble for you to ponder: can you use EIC to help you provide effective feedback?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your career or your life,
why not email me to see how we can work together?