How to give high quality feedback?

Good feedback, bad feedback, positive feedback or negative feedback. There are many descriptions of different kinds of feedback, and they can be confusing. Sometimes so much so, it can create misunderstandings and uncertainty. Therefore, we’ll introduce the measure of quality in terms of feedback.


Fundamental elements of high-quality feedback

Low-quality feedback has many faces. It can be embarrassing. It can be confusing. It can simply lack information. It can be degrading or irrelevant. All of these things are not useful if we want to use feedback to foster strong relationships and high performance.

To ensure that your feedback is perceived as useful and motivational, keep the following 3 things in mind when giving feedback:


1) Come from a place of helpful intentions

It’s fundamental that your good intentions are evident in your feedback. The recipient should never doubt the fact that you’re investing your time in them. Your feedback should aim to improve learning, development, acknowledgement and strengthening of the recipient’s self-perception. If your considerate intentions shine through, you can deliver your feedback nearly however you want. The opposite of considerate intentions is when you say something just to blow off steam, regardless of whether the other person considers it useful or not.


2) Motivate and encourage learning

Feedback and learning are closely linked but aren’t the same thing. Just because you’ve given feedback, it doesn’t mean that your recipient has learned anything. We want feedback to foster learning, and your good points to really get across. Otherwise feedback will be a waste of time, and no one wants to waste their time. That’s why we have to try to create the best environment for fostering learning with the recipient. Here’s a list of things that will improve the chances of learning:

  • That the recipient trusts you
  • That you are a credible source of this particular feedback
  • That the recipient can relate to what you’re saying
  • That the recipient has consented to you giving feedback
  • That you use specific examples
  • That your feedback presents a beneficial outcome
  • That the feedback is a dialogue, not a lecture
  • That the feedback contains information
  • That you and the recipient are in a stable emotional state

3) Create sustainable routines

What, you want us to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging in our feedback? No, this isn’t about plastic waste and the environment, but sustainability in terms of relationships. Your feedback cannot tear down the recipient, because then they’ll simply stop asking for your feedback. You have to aim to be motivational, willing to listen and try to find balance in your feedback. One way to do this is to consider the balance between maintaining and correcting feedback. Is your feedback about strengths or weaknesses?


A study by Paul Green shows that we tend to avoid sources of critical feedback. Who actually wants to listen to the colleague who constantly tears you down by pointing out all of your flaws? We can’t afford our feedback to have a negative impact on our relationships with our colleagues.


A mindset, not a model

You may get the feeling that these guidelines leave a lot of room for you to design your own feedback – and this is absolutely true. This is not a guide for how to give feedback, but how to create a mindset that you can use in your approach to feedback.

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