As a leader, one of your most important roles is to provide feedback to your employees. You can't expect them to improve if you don't give them constructive feedback about how they're doing at work. But it's not just about giving out advice—it's also about receiving feedback from others.
The hard and fast rules about giving feedback
When you're giving feedback, it's important to keep these principles in mind:
- Be specific. Avoid generalities such as "you're not a good leader." Instead, be as specific as possible when describing what the person did or didn't do well.
- Be honest about your feelings but respectful at all times—even if it means being honest about how someone has made you feel uncomfortable or even hurt by their actions.
- Give the other person time to gather their thoughts. Don’t rush them or cut them off as they try to formulate their response
- Opt for giving feedback in-person when feasible. Seeing how the other person reacts can help you refine your delivery of the message, or even change your approach entirely.
The COIN approach to giving impactful feedback
The effective use of the Context - Observation - Impact - Next (C.O.I.N) formula will make both positive and constructive feedback more impactful. Here's how it works:
- Context: Start by identifying the situation. What was going on when you witnessed your colleague behaving in this way? What were they doing? Who were they with? How did their behavior affect you and others around them?
- Observation: Communicate the behavior in a clear, objective manner that does not make assumptions about their intentions or motivations for acting in this way or why they might have done something differently if given another chance to act without it having any negative consequences for them personally or professionally.
- Impact: Help your colleague understand why you're commenting on this behavior by describing its impact.
- Next: In addition to giving constructive criticism, offer some suggestions of what they could do to improve.
8 ways to receive feedback effectively
Feedback is a two-way street. It's not just about giving effective feedback – it's equally important to know how to appropriately and effectively receive feedback too. Here are some tips:
- Prepare yourself to potentially hear something that's hard to hear – it's important to acknowledge that your colleagues may sometimes have constructive criticism or even outright conflict.
- Know what you want to learn from the feedback so you can ask specific questions. The first step in being an effective recipient of feedback is knowing what you want to learn from the feedback so that you can ask specific questions. This will help both parties understand each other's perspectives better, which will make it easier to collaborate on solutions.
- Don't argue while they're giving you feedback. Remember, the person giving you feedback is trying their best to help you improve your performance and grow as a professional. If what they have said sounds off-base or incorrect, explain why later on when the time is right. Try not to take it personally; instead focus on what they are saying and how it can help you grow as a professional.
- Thank your colleague and show appreciation for your their time and feedback. If someone’s taking the time to give you feedback, it means they care about your progress and want to see you succeed. Show them how much their work matters by thanking them for their insight and consideration.
- Be open-minded about what you learn from receiving feedback. Your co-workers and boss have a different perspective than you do.
- Take notes after your conversation so it's fresh in your mind when it comes time to act on the feedback.
- Prioritize what you can act on immediately, and start small with changes in one or two things you do at work. Don't try to improve everything at once.
- Monitor your progress, but don't be too hard on yourself if you fall back into old habits sometimes. When you're in the midst of learning something new, it's going to take time for everything to "click". The best thing you can do is keep practicing and try not to get discouraged by setbacks.
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