Giving feedback to your peers, or even direct reports, can be a tricky road to navigate for anyone. It can be awkward and uncomfortable, and there may be a fear that you'll offend someone, destroy team dynamics, and seriously harm your project. When successful, feedback can build trust in your team, build solid relationships and, ultimately, create a better project outcome. How can IT professionals give feedback that provides the latter? Here are a few basic tips for giving feedback:
Remember the Two Types of Feedback
Strike a balance between both reinforcement (positive) feedback and corrective (negative) feedback. Positive feedback points out a job well done and encourages a person to continue the same behavior, where negative feedback highlights a need for improvement. Unfortunately, too often we only give negative feedback, eliminating the massive motivational benefits that come from the recognition in positive feedback.
Keep Feedback SMART
The acronym can be used when setting goals, answering job interview questions and, yes, when giving constructive feedback. Rather than a simple "you could do this better", provide a person with Specific details of the situation and how they can improve. Make it easy for them to Measure their progress and Achieve success in a Realistic manner. Finally, make feedback Time-bound, so a person has a specific deadline to work towards.
Be Careful How You Give the Feedback
Even if you're providing SMART feedback, the specific words you choose and tone you use will affect how it is perceived. Ensure your language is not judgmental and your voice is not condescending. How you communicate is especially important when you're working in a team where there are language and cultural barriers. Although you may think your message is coming across politely and clearly the recipient may not fully comprehend your tone.
Is the Feedback Really Necessary?
Before providing your input, make sure it is necessary, it will be helpful, and it's your place to give it. If you don't know the complete circumstances of the situation, if the person has no control over the situation, if you're angry, or if it's simply none of your business, then don't saying anything at all. It's also wise to "pick your battles." Too much feedback can be overwhelming, frustrating and counter-productive. Therefore, ask yourself if it's really that important.
Plan Your Feedback
Feedback should be given sooner rather than later (it's common for peers to provide feedback when a project is over, which does not help improve the project), but also avoid jumping on it immediately. Plan carefully to understand the person's situation, what you'll say and where you'll say it. For example, a public setting is great for positive feedback, but not appropriate for negative feedback. Feedback is a two-way street. You have to be great at providing it, but the other person has to be willing to accept it. When some people hear feedback, they immediately think "you need to change" or "you're terrible at what you do." This is beyond your control, but ensuring you're as good at accepting feedback as giving it will help others accept it too.
How does feedback get given and received on your teams? Do you have any secrets for giving it?