A Guide On How To Give Feedback (A precise formula + examples of constructive feedback)

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Have you ever wished that your manager/boss knows how to give feedback? I’m talking about the exact sentences and the content of the feedback your boss gives.

Haven’t you open-mindedly thought – if only you tell me what exactly you want me to do, I’ll do it. What you’ve craved for is constructive feedback.

We all work for someone or something. That work is probably tangible. That means, it can be observed, evaluated, referenced, used, and improved upon. 

You submit a thesis draft to your professor, or you submit a report to your employer. You then ask for feedback because good work gets you ahead. More often than not, that feedback is a question mark. It is just hard to understand what the feedback means. It is probably vague, contains a remark, and delayed. Have you always found such feedback useful?

Let’s take the bosses’ perspective. Have you thought why your employees are not doing a good job in spite of you telling them that you don’t find it good enough? The problem might be how you give your feedback. It might be useless or maybe it conveys an intangible emotion and not an actionable input. 

Feedback should be F.A.S.T.

Constructive & Positive Feedback has structured components.

Sometimes you get feedback which has no tangible value. Let us say you drafted a plan for a promotional event.  Imagine that your employer replies to you after 1 week with the following:

“Thanks, I checked your work. Improve it a bit.”.
And then your thoughts start flooding your brain.

Improve what?
What did you check?
I spent 50 hours on it. I checked everything.
Is something wrong?
Did I miss something?
What are you expecting?
What took a week? It’s just a 1000 word report on a lot of work?
If you have questions, ask them.

I hate my boss. My manager sucks.

How often does this happen?

My guess is that most people don’t know how to give quality feedback.

Here is a very effective framework I’ve adopted. I was taught this during my mentorship training for assisting students on Coursera.

Before I get to the framework. Let’s look at the mental perspective & the thoughts of the feedback giver. The following sentences most likely indicate what your manager is thinking before giving feedback. 

This is ok. I wasn’t expecting this.
This sucks. What can I say?
Ok, this is good. I’ll compliment.
All week has gone. It’s time to submit it. We don’t have any more time.
This needs improvement. I’ll just ask for a quick ‘better finish’.
I don’t know what these guys did. I’ll give them a lecture during a meeting.

None of the above statements has any use. But, they are commonly felt reactions to work submissions.

This is why a boss/manager needs to know how to give feedback – to make sure the employee knows what to do and how to get the job done. 

I’ll be discussing a formula-based framework for giving constructive feedback. It can be used by both – The feedback giver and the feedback seeker.  

How to give good feedback

img src: giulia.forsythe, on Flickr

Ask yourself this – when you submit work, what sort of constructive/positive feedback do you expect; so you can give/create the best you can?

The formula for constructive feedback

Feedback should be: F.A.S.T. = Feedforward + Actionable + Succinct + Timely

There are 4 feedback examples in this section. Pay attention to the wording. 

Feedforward: Your feedback should help the feedback receiver in the future. You can do this by mentioning ‘how’ it can help.

Feedback example 1 – Learning how to touch type will help you type faster and reduce errors. That’ll further help you save time and create more opportunities to think about what you want to convey.

Actionable: Just compliments make people Just happy. Actionable feedback is precise, it captions the important aspects of your work, and contains practical instructions for improvement & changes.

Feedback example 2 – I like how you’ve structured your document in a hierarchy of importance. Next time, try to implement a hierarchy AND an overview of the rest of it in the form of small summary sections. The reader will better comprehend the document.

Succinct: Short, simple, and compact feedback is very efficient. Pick a few key points and focus on those. If need be, give additional feedback later when the primary goal of the work has been addressed*

Feedback example 3- Here are 2 key points I’d like you to focus on for improving your daily cold calling. Point A, Point B (Describe in an actionable way).

Timely: Give feedback as soon as possible. Usually, that is a within a day. Faster the feedback, the better is its impact. The receiver is in that ‘hot spot’ of implementation only for a limited period of time. If you wait too long, the importance of the work & the feedback could drastically drop.

Feedback example 4 – Time of feedback < 24hours. Reply to emails or comment on a document, or just WhatsApp. Do it quickly.

*It’s NOT important to cover EVERY base while giving constructive feedback unless it is warranted. The receiver won’t follow up with everything, it is overwhelming. Instead, pick a few important points and focus on them in your positive feedback.

Point of caution: 

It is of more value to give ‘some’ constructive feedback that CAN be implemented by the feedback seeker than you to feel that you’ve given an exhaustive feedback report.  

Managers: Take note of the previous point. It is important for you to know how to give feedback which is limited in scope and maximizes the output from your employee. 

I’ll end this post on how to give feedback here. Hope these examples of constructive feedback give you a clear idea. Enjoy giving and receiving constructive feedback. You’ll see a tangible improvement in your productivity if you receive such feedback and you’ll also receive better work output from your employees & students if you can structure your feedback as F.A.S.T.

P.S. Perhaps you can practice giving good feedback (via comments) by telling me how I could improve my article. 🙂

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