in Team Leadership & Management — 10 min read

What is work without feedback? According to Joel Peterson, operating without feedback is like driving a car with no speedometer, learning to cook without ever tasting your food, or playing basketball without a scoreboard.

Whether its positive or negative, providing efficient feedback is never easy. Why? Because giving feedback is a skill like any other, a skill you need to learn and practice in order to become a master. Feedback that inspires people to improve and act is way beyond the common phrases like "good work" or "job well done". Phrases that have been used for too many years in too many occasions.

Before highlighting helpful feedback tips from Joel Peterson, Daniel Coyle, Eric Nitzberg, Annie Murphy Paul and Bill Gross, lets take a look at real-life examples of unhelpful feedback.

Here is a short guide to how-not-to provide feedback, pulled by Business Management Daily from actual performance reviews given to federal employees:

How not to give feedback

Well, enough joking. We feel bad for these employees who had to receive this kind of feedback. Whether they deserved it or not isn't the issue at the moment. Providing helpful and inspiring feedback should be on every leaders agenda. Giving feedback is a skill, it's not something we're born with. It takes time and practice to master. That's why we've collected some great tips from experienced leaders and consultants that you can start implementing today.

How to give feedback that inspires?

Joel Peterson suggests you to choose words carefully, be specific and make feedback a regular process. Honesty is the best policy, so if the matter is serious, don't try to cover it, but be open and straight forward. There is no need to use high velocity language. What is more, even in the darkest times don't be overly negative. There are always some highlights to focus on or positive moments to hold on to. What ever the case, its important to remember that there is only a certain amount of information people can consume at once. Don't overwhelm your people. Keep it cool and follow-up each feedback session to show you care and are paying attention.

According to Daniel, every successful leader knows that there's no moment more important than the moment feedback is delivered. But he questions whether effective feedback is only about the quality of the information or is there something else do it? He suggests you to try one phrase, consisting of 19 words, that can turn the feedback into gold. The phrase goes like this " I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them".

What's the power in this sentence? It creates a sense of belonging and connection.

Eric thinks about feedback as part of the life-blood of healthy organizations. Therefore, he shares a simple three-step process for giving feedback. But for your warning, the term simple doesn't mean easy, this process still takes practices. Starting from the beginning, the first important step is to describe the behavior you want your employees to change or magnify. You need to select recent, specific behaviors because people can more easily understand and act if you are clear about the behaviors involved.

Then, moving forward, it's important to describe the impact of the behavior. Think about the real and concrete impact the behavior has on the output, on others or on the situation. Select the ones that are most important and share it.

Step three, share what you would like them to change (or keep doing) in the future. Provide specific guidelines, so the employees know what you expect and what should be changed. Give them a road map to success by saying out loud what you would like to be changed or what you are happy about.

  • Annie Murphy Paul, contributing writer for Time magazine, author and a consultant, states that too often our feedback is ineffectual or even counterproductive. That's why she brings out four ways to offer feedback that really makes a difference, drawn from research in psychology and cognitive science.

For a more efficient, inspiring feedback, supply information about what the employee is doing. Don't limit the feedback with a simple praise or criticism, but provide information on what exactly the employee is doing right or wrong. Then, take care in how you present feedback. There are several conditions under which feedback may reduce employees' motivation: when they feel their performance is too closely monitored; when they interpret feedback as an attempt to control or when they feel uncomfortable sense of competition. Thirdly, orient feedback around goals. Once you have established a clear objective, provide feedback that help employees see the progress they're making towards the goal. Last but not the least, use feedback to build metacognitive skills. Develop your employees' awareness of their own learning. The ultimate goal would be to teach employees how to give feedback to themselves.

  • Bill Gross, successful businessman and the CEO of Idealab, sums up great feedback advice into one simple sentence.

The best lesson he has learned in giving employee feedback is to use the word AND instead of BUT. The reasoning is quite simple. When you start your feedback with a positive tone and end it with a but, it will negate all the goodwill you have built up in the first part. What is worse, the but gets someone's defenses up and decreases their learning experience. Therefore, learn how to craft your feedback with an and, which will make your feedback much more successful.

Here's also a great slideshow to get you inspired:

Feedback is a the breakfast of champions. Even for the champions, mastering the skill takes time and practices. Taking together these great guidelines, one thing is for sure: regular, timely and specific feedback is crucial. At Weekdone, we always emphasize the importance of weekly reviews. That's why we have a special weekly review box underneath each employees progress report template. How you could start giving efficient feedback today using Weekdone progress reports?

1. After the weekly report deadline, go to your employees' reports and reflect on the content. What kind of finished taks gave great results? What kind of behaviors lead to this success? What kind of behaviors caused challenges? Analyze their reports and think about the specific actions that you would like to praise or improve.

2. Scroll down to each employees review box and provide few sentences of feedback on their weekly progress. This will ensure that the feedback you provide is timely, it reflects the recent behaviors.

3. Follow-up your feedback or ask additional questions. Repeat the process weekly. In addition to helping your team grow and reach new heights, this will also make them feel heard. It shows that you care about their progress. It's a wonderful way to inspire and motivate your people to reach even more challenging goals.

We can't emphasize enough how important regular feedback is to your employees. So, let me ask, how often do you give feedback to your employees?