Instead of Five Gold Rings, as the Twelve Days of Christmas carol goes, we’re giving you Five Gold…en Rules of Feedback (Thank us later!)

Giving and receiving feedback is difficult to do well. Very difficult in fact! But the more we do it, the better we’ll become at it and the better we’ll be as individuals – so it’s worth investing some time in getting it right.

Below are a few DO’s and DON’Ts to help you along the way…

DO get in first – if there is something in particular that you are working on, go to your colleagues, peers and managers and ask them to keep an eye out for behaviours that you are looking to change. This way, it’s on your terms and you can start to get used to being told information about yourself and your behaviour. It is also really helpful for the person offering the feedback because you have helped them direct their focus onto the things you have already identified as areas for development.

For example: “I’d like to get better at summarizing data and figures during monthly meetings. I’m going to try and change this by describing only the key elements of the commercial factors that have changed and not ones that are relatively stable over a month. Can you let me know if this is having a more positive impact on you as a member of the team? If it is having a positive impact, can you explain to me what that is?”

DO say thank you – when someone gives you feedback they are taking the time, and potentially putting themselves in an uncomfortable scenario, to help you get better or to commend you for something great – so it’s really important that you thank them. When the feedback is positive, we often ‘play it down’ by saying things like “oh it’s nothing” or “I’m just doing my job”. Take credit for your work! Try saying something like, “thanks for that, I appreciate you taking the time to let me know how it had an impact on you.” Allow yourself to feel good and feel motivated that you are having a positive influence on the people you are interacting with. The more you embrace it, the better it will flow into other areas of your life.

DON’T justify or defend – you are simply receiving information about how somebody perceived a behaviour of yours. You can’t change that perception as it’s in the past, you can only change the future! So try not to jump into defensive mode and do take the opportunity to really listen to what the person is saying to you. That old adage is really useful here: “You’ve got two ears and one tongue, so do twice as much listening as speaking”.

DO give specific examples – always give a specific example of the recipient’s behaviour that they can recognise/remember. For this reason, it’s best to deliver feedback as close to when you recognised the example behaviour as possible. Basically, don’t give an example from 6 months ago! Keep it relevant and timely. Make it relevant, make it recent and of course, remember that timing is important. Just because you’ve been told to give “in the moment feedback”, you need to be very skilled at delivering it if there is a blazing row happening in the meeting room!

DO discuss the alternative – have an adult-to-adult conversation about what a suitable/appropriate alternative behaviour could be. When suggesting a change, remember that the question “Why?” will be going around the recipient’s head. Supporting them to identify an alternative will help them understand the effects of the original behaviour better, whilst providing a clear action point as to how they can change/modify it. Make sure the recipient understands and appreciates the outcome of not making the change in behaviour (the consequences of not changing) or if motivational the outcome of continuing to behave in the identified way.

December is naturally a good time for reflection, so perhaps you could make it your mission this week to give or ask for some feedback. Let us know how you get on! @discoveryperf