We all make mistakes. All the time. Being aware of our most common mistakes can help us reflect and critically evaluate the ways in which we provide feedback. In the end, we all want to provide constructive feedback to strengthen, change or create new behaviors. At Feedwork, we help you improve your feedback. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes we make when providing feedback:
1) You’re providing feedback for your own benefit
Are you really talking about your own needs? The person on the other end may not experience that the feedback is about their growth, but rather about you wanting to position yourself in a certain way. If it’s unclear for the recipient what to gain from listening to your feedback, you shouldn’t give it at all.
2) Your feedback becomes a monologue
You’re explaining, giving examples, rephrasing, repeating, suggesting, inspiring – but somewhere along this long and winding path you lost the recipient. If you genuinely want your colleague to change and learn from your perspective, they have to be part of the conversation as well. Good feedback is a dialogue and takes into account the perspectives, understandings and experiences of the other person. Dialogue fosters motivation.
3) You don’t have the other person’s consent
Consent is a fundamental requirement for any learning to take place. If the recipient is not ready to receive any feedback from you at this moment, the probability that they will learn from it is miniscule. Remember that your relationship is an important part of consent – is this a normal part of your work or is this a new situation?
4) Your feedback is too confronting
Criticism has its time and place, but if the recipient feels that their social status is threatened, they will begin a fight-or-flight response. Amygdala hijack. From this point on, the recipient will not consider how to grow, but rather how to escape. Several things may elicit this response such as the contents of your feedback, the way you provide the feedback, whether others are present at the time of feedback or the recipient’s current emotional state.
5) The feedback is sugarcoated and vague
You’re very aware not to hurt the other person’s feelings. This may lead to you sugarcoating your feedback so much that the actual points of your feedback completely disappear. You have to find the sweet spot between being considerate and communicating clearly.
6) The feedback is lacking tangible examples
“I think you’re very unstructured when we work together”. Come on, you can do this. Pinpoint the parts of your colleague’s behavior that makes you feel that there’s a lack of structure. Be specific with examples, situations and experiences to make the recipient gain a better understanding of the issue and how to do something about it.
7) You give too much feedback all at once
Now is the time. You’ve gathered up the courage. You’ve prepared down to every last detail. Caught up in all the excitement, you overwhelm the recipient with 10 things they should be doing differently. This may cause them to lose track, as well as motivation. It’s better to go for 1% improvements every week and a feeling of success rather than going for 10% every quarter and failing.
8) Your feedback is too fixed on problems
It lies in the word feedback to dwell on the past. This may be a good thing, especially when being very specific about your observations. In order to make your criticism constructive, it’s crucial to help the recipient with suggestions about how to deal with the issues at hand. Feedback should prompt a feeling of momentum and opportunity.
9) You aren’t credible within this topic
Sometimes you provide feedback on things that are outside of your skill set, things you know nothing about. Be careful with this, especially if the recipient is an expert in this area. One way to make it easier for yourself is to mention your limited understanding – “I know I’m no expert on this, but I was wondering if we could ..”
10) You provide feedback that the recipient doesn’t care about
People are very selective about where they choose to spend their time and energy. If your feedback does not fit into what your recipient is interested in, they won’t want to get involved. You may want to consider your timing in terms of the journey of your recipient – is this input contributing to the current project James is working on?
One thing is for sure: You will not make all of these mistakes at once. The best thing for you to do is to pick out one that you recognize from yourself. Write it in a notebook and take it with you as a focal point for your next feedback conversations. In this way you’ll improve your feedback skills step by step.