So, you’ve been asked to provide feedback for a colleague who is seeking to grow as a leader. Feedback from others plays a crucial role in one’s growth and development because it provides information on how we are perceived by the people around us. If we are open to receiving this feedback, consider it with humility, and integrate it to inform new behaviors, we can grow to be more effective and transformational leaders.
Your feedback is beneficial because it will help provide a baseline for the participant to evaluate their growth as a leader.
Q: Who is feedback shared with?
A: Written feedback is never shared beyond the participant and debriefer. The aggregate scores from a 360 are shared with the program administrators.
Q: How can I preserve anonymity?
A: Feedback providers should always feel they can give honest and constructive feedback, without anxiety that there might be negative implications for anyone, including themself, a participant, colleagues, or others. Whenever feedback is solicited, we describe the level of anonymity that has been configured for that request. Generally, the configuration is set to “fully anonymous”, which means that your name will not be shared alongside the specific qualitative answers or written feedback. However, keep in mind that written feedback is delivered to the participant verbatim.
When giving feedback it can be easy to accidentally disclose identity. Sometimes there are not many feedback providers for a given request, and the participant can discern who provided the feedback based on the style, tone, language use, and knowledge/opinions shared. If you wish to preserve anonymity, pay attention to these factors when providing feedback.
Q: How can I provide effective feedback?
A: Here are some tips to provide thoughtful feedback.
Be attuned: Your emotional tone and descriptive words should accurately and proportionally match the behavior your feedback is meant to address.
Be honest. Define the problem and the solution. The goal of giving feedback is to support the recipient’s growth and to encourage positive change. Growth happens when we learn where and how we can do better.
Be specific. It’s easy to be broad and vague, but this isn’t very useful. Try to give examples. If an example might violate anonymity, provide a generalized hypothetical version.
Be constructive. This means that your feedback makes it easier for the receiver to take action based on it. The most constructive feedback includes the seed of a suggestion for improvement. An embedded answer isn’t required; however, it’s enough to provide helpful information that a reasonable person might act on.
Be modest. Research shows that feedback varies widely based on factors including perspective, personality, and experience. Leadership is complex, as is human interaction in general. Don’t convey your feedback as objective truth, but rather as your personal experience. Use “I” messages such as “When you do X, I feel Y.” This format helps both parties see their role in a problem and increases the likelihood of a productive outcome.
Be kind. This is not always as obvious or easy as it sounds. If you ever receive serious feedback, you will realize that it can be emotionally challenging in ways that the sender does not expect. Take effort to put yourself in the emotional shoes of the receiver. Conservatively communicate in a way that is likely to make the receiver feel safe and supported.
Be considerate. Outside of kindness, think of any implications of your feedback on the receiver or others. For example, are you disclosing opinions of others without their consent?
Speak from your own experience. While it may seem tempting to simply tell your colleague what to do, giving advice can be unsupportive. It is more skillful to help someone find a solution for themselves. By speaking from one’s own direct experience, we model, rather than tell the person what they should do.
Talk about the person, not their attitude. When airing a grievance, talk about the person’s behavior, not their attitude. You don’t really know what internal attitudes or motivations lead someone to behave in a certain way, and it is dangerous to make assumptions.
Avoid using hyperbolic language. Terms like “you always” and “you never,” or “amazing” or “terrible” can generate a defensive response or cause someone to discredit the feedback.
No trolling. People sometimes hold in feedback for too long and then unload on the recipient all at once. If you find yourself wanting to do this in performance reviews and 360s, you’ve probably waited too long and delivering your accumulated resentment without consideration will result in defensiveness rather than positive changes.
Q: Can you recommend some additional resources?
A: Yes! Please see the resources below for more information.
A Primer on Manager Feedback. If you only read one, read this one.
How to Give Effective Feedback. Important emphasis on preparation and specific examples.
7 Tough Lessons I've Learned on Giving and Receiving Feedback. Giving feedback is a skill we can all cultivate.
No Hard Feelings Guide to: Giving Feedback. If you like brevity and infographics, this one's for you.