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6 keys to direct feedback

The research shows employees want more feedback, not less. Look and listen for your next opportunity to give feedback—then use these tips to deliver feedback that doesn’t fall like a ton of bricks.

1. Make it timely.

There’s nothing worse than having a sit-down with your boss or co-worker, only to find out they’ve amassed a lengthy list of things they think you could do better. Providing feedback in, or close to, allows the feedback giver to reference something easily memorable and the receiver to take more immediate action. In the long run, timely delivery of feedback can mitigate larger issues and foster a culture of ongoing improvement and continuous learning.

2. Be truthful.

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to delivering direct feedback. Delivering critical feedback is especially hard for most people, so it often ends up sugar coated. This approach fails to deliver critical feedback with the level of sincerity and concern it warrants.

3. Be specific.

Always share specifics when delivering feedback, positive or negative. “Great job!” is not valuable. “Sarah, I think you did an amazing job on that presentation today! I can tell you put a lot of time and effort into your delivery. I particularly liked how you simplified the data into simple graphs that focused on the root of each problem. I think that really helped everyone in the room get up to speed quickly on your initiative. Thank you!” is sure to be more impactful. Not only does it show the recipient that you care, but it also provides valuable context on what they’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement.

4. Take an unassuming approach.

The recipient shouldn’t feel judged when receiving feedback—and you also may not know the whole story behind what happened. When delivering critical feedback, present it in a way that communicates: “This feedback is my perception.” This gives the recipient the opportunity to provide more context and ask clarifying questions.

5. Don’t rush your feedback.

When sharing critical feedback, a good rule of thumb is to take no longer than one minute to deliver your concern, provide specifics, and then stop talking. This gives the recipient time to process and respond. 

Bonus tip: If you don’t get any response, Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, recommends asking the question “What are you feeling?” By asking “what” instead of “how”,the recipient is prompted to provide a more useful response.

6. Offer more positive feedback.

Direct feedback doesn’t always have to be critical in nature to constructive. In fact, delivering frequent positive feedback can help build a strong foundation of trust. Down the road, this makes the delivery of critical feedback more digestible. 

Giving feedback can be tough, but it’s an important part of your role as a manager. Use these six keys, and watch how your employees grow.