The Importance of Feedback

Why is feedback important? Feedback is meant to produce the best possible outcome of a project or behavior. If you want your project to be successful, good feedback could lead to your team developing a winning solution. Or if you want a certain employee to deliver to their maximum potential, good feedback could be the key to unlocking the desired behavior. On the other hand in either situation bad feedback can be the breaking point that spells disaster. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it’s important to get it into the process as fast as possible. Good feedback leads to success. But first let’s talk about what bad feedback looks like.

Bad Feedback

Bad feedback can be worse than no feedback. If delivered in the wrong way or at the wrong time, it can be highly damaging to projects and relationships.

  1. Feedback is Bad When it’s Personal Feedback should be objective and directed at projects or processes not individuals. (Unless behavior is an issue)
  2. Feedback is Bad When it’s Poorly Timed Feedback needs to come after the current iteration is finished, but before the next phase starts. It’s not helpful to offer feedback whenever the mood strikes you. There is a time and a place for everything.
  3. Feedback is Bad When it’s Overly Specific Being a manager does not mean having to control absolutely everything. By all means be specific. Point out qualities, issues, and concerns. But don’t over do it. You have to show your team that you trust them to do their job.
  4. Feedback is Bad When it’s a Compliment Sandwich You know this one. Say something positive. Offer feedback. Say something else positive. I’ve tried this and it comes up short. People tend to focus on the 2 positives and pay less attention to the actual feedback. It’s better to be direct. Be honest and then be supportive. The sugar coating isn’t helping anyone.
  5. Bad Feedback is Confusing “Make it pretty.” We all now that’s not good feedback. Have a point and make sure it is understood. Make sure the individual or the team knows the goal and knows the next steps to take.

Good Feedback

Good feedback is useful in so many ways. It improves outcomes, processes, individuals and relationships. Try to see feedback as an essential tool to making your individual contributors, your team, your projects and your company better. Be thoughtful.

  1. Good Feedback Focuses on Coaching Help your team / individual solve a problem without giving them the solution. Most of the time you can guide people to find a great solution on their own. Ask good questions. Sometimes you do have to take over, but make that a last case scenario.
  2. Good Feedback is Direct Direct, but not personal. Focus on the project not the individual. Be honest then be supportive. Be there for them as a leader. Help them find the solution.
  3. Good Feedback is Honest It might be difficult. It might be a tough conversation. But ultimately the only way to improve is to be honest and direct. Get to the point. Offer support. Build trust. Solve the problem together.
  4. Good Feedback is Meaningful Take the time to understand why the person made the decisions that led up to this point. Offer insight. Leave the person or team with a clear path to solving the problem. Help them move forward.
  5. Good Feedback is Collaborative Offer insight. Offer support. Explain the issue and work together to find a solution. Don’t just point out faults. Set people up for success.
  6. Good Feedback Builds Trust and Rapport When you are honest, direct and offer help, you build trust and rapport. Walk the talk. Do what you say and be there when help is needed. Giving people big problems to solve is a sign of trust.

Types of Feedback

Feedback comes in two main types, constructive and destructive. If you are looking to lead a successful team or project, constructive feedback is your only option.

Destructive Only points out problems and issues. No support or advice is offered. Often a direct attack on an individual. Doesn’t contribute to a solution Destroys trust and rapport. Crushes creativity.

Constructive Focuses on the problem. Objective. Offers useful advice and leads toward discovering a solid solution. Contributes to a positive outcome. Good for building support for people and teams. The following are all forms of constructive feedback:

  1. Objective Performance based. Consists of clear expectations and data to measure success or failure. Allows you to offer guidance on how to reach the ultimate goal. This type of feedback is very important for holding people accountable.
  2. Subjective Influenced by a persons opinions, tastes or feelings. Subjective feedback is usually based on experience and thus, very valuable. But it shouldn’t be a stand alone form of feedback.
  3. Positive This is what people want to hear. It reinforces behavior that you want more of.
  4. Negative Something has gone wrong and must be addressed. Does not have to be destructive. Use it as an opportunity to learn and move forward.
  5. Coaching Intended to inspire individuals and teams. Taps into strengths, provides support and leads down a path of growth and improvement.
  6. Appreciation Directed at individuals and teams to let them know you are grateful for their performance and contribution.

How to Give Feedback

Delivery is important. For feedback to be useful its has to be heard. It has to be received with intent to act upon it. Be clear and make sure you are understood. Think of it as a mentoring moment. Be patient. Guide and support. Be open to discussion and use the time to facilitate improvement.

  1. Start with a Recap Frame the problem you are trying to solve. Pick up where you left off. Make sure you are on the same page.
  2. Be Timely Even the best feedback can fall flat if it’s delivered at the wrong time. It prevents miscommunications. It makes improvement easier. It builds rapport. Recognize, appreciate, propose. Let them know what success looks like.
  3. Be Direct Be specific but be passive Instead of saying “Your projects need to be stronger.”, say “This project would have been more effective if had a more contextual basis.” This way you are singling out the work and not the individual. At the same time you are offering direct feedback and leaving room for the person to make good decisions and do their best work.
  4. Collaborate Understand the process and the thinking behind the work being reviewed. Take the time to find out why decisions were made that resulted in the current outcome. Be empathetic. Work together to find the best way to move forward.
  5. Use Multiple Styles of Feedback There are plenty of styles, just use one that’s constructive. Use the different types of feedback to support each other. Find what works and be clear about the path ahead.
  6. Make Sure the Message is Received as Delivered. People can be defensive when receiving feedback. This can lead to misinterpretations. Make sure the feedback is clear and understood.
  7. Ask for Feedback on Your Feedback Make sure you are giving quality feedback. Make sure you are as helpful and supportive as possible. Ask for ways you could improve. Listen.

How to Receive Feedback

Receiving feedback is just as important giving it. Pay attention. Learn something. Feedback is only as valuable as the actions you take to improve after you receive it.

  1. Listen Up Take it in. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Encourage the person to speak. Be an active listener. Now is a good time for empathy.
  2. Take Notes Write it down. Be specific. This will help you take action later. It shows your intent to understand and your appreciation for the feedback.
  3. Explain Know where you are coming from. Be able to explain your process. Explain how you came to this solution. Know why you made the decisions that led you here. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t be argumentative.
  4. Ask Questions Make sure you are crystal clear on what you need to take away. Be sure you understand the next steps and the ultimate goal. Learn something. The whole point is to move forward.
  5. Be Grateful Chances are you just learned something. Be thankful for the opportunity to grow and improve. Be sure to say thank you.
  6. Take Action This is the critical part. You got some feedback. You know your next steps. Take the action to improve the project and yourself. Make an impact.
  7. Start Asking for Advice Sometimes it’s easier to ask someone for advice. Advice is easier to give. It doesn’t feel as heavy as feedback. You can take it or leave it. No pressure. But still provides an opportunity to learn.

Group Feedback

Our team sets weekly goals on personal business related projects. On Fridays we discuss and give feedback as a group. It helps to move the projects along quickly and makes feedback an integral part of the process. However there are some things you need to consider when getting feedback from a group.

  1. Group Feedback Needs an Agenda Understand where you are, what your goal is, and how to accomplish it. Stay on target.
  2. Group Feedback Needs to Have Rules Have a moderator. Stick to the agenda and stay on target. Don’t let individuals take too much time. Set time limits if you have too.
  3. Group Feedback Needs to be Timely As we said before, feedback needs to come at the right time. Have a schedule. After an iteration or after a customer provides feedback work best. It needs to be fresh. Not before the current step is finished. Not before the next step begins.

Feedback basically needs to be clear. It needs to point toward a solution. It should also be used to build relationships and trust. Feedback should have a common ground and an objective source to settle disputes. It should have a solid data source to refer to so opinion based arguments can be settled. Be patient, collaborate and make the most of feedback. It’s an essential and very useful tool.

References, Links & Resources

Crazy One Podcast, How to get and give better creative feedback

Crazy One Podcast, How to give better design Feedback

How to Make Hard Feedback Pay Off, Ashley Szukalski

Why Employee Feedback is Important + How to Give and Receive it, Eric Robinson

How to Receive Feedback Effectively, AGU Career Center

About Buttonwood

We are the company behind the world’s most beautiful awards, deal toys, mementos, and corporate gifts. For over 10 years, Buttonwood has designed iconic awards for the most storied names on Wall Street. Our custom deal toys and mementos are designed in our studio in New York and can be shipped anywhere in the world. We are a women owned business and we have been at this for a while.