Want to Give Better Feedback? Start with These 5 Questions

By Melissa Suzuno
on Jun 12, 2018 10:00:00 AM


Have you decided to make feedback a regular occurrence at your company? Good thinking!

Frequent feedback is an essential element of a high-performance culture. But not all feedback is created equal. You can significantly improve the feedback you offer—and increase the chances of making a positive impact—by following these guidelines. Before giving feedback, take a moment to ask yourself these five questions.

Is it specific? 

What exactly are you giving feedback on? In order for feedback to be useful and actionable, it needs to be specific, both in the way that it describes the past behavior or work and in the way that it outlines what should be changed in the future. In a Harvard Business Review article, Liane Davey writes that “orienting to the situation, describing the behavior, and sharing the impact… are the basic ingredients of effective feedback.” So make sure you’ve given this some thought before you begin the feedback conversation.

Is it tied in to a tangible outcome? 

What will the recipient do as a result of hearing your feedback? If you can’t think of a clear outcome or tangible step, it will be even more difficult for the person who’s receiving it to do so! Remember, the point of feedback is to help a coworker learn and improve. Constructive, work-related feedback is critical for development, so it's key to lookout for any hidden biases

Is it respectful? 

How will this feedback come across to the person who’s receiving it? In the HBR article mentioned above, Liane Davey writes about the importance of coming across as an “ally.” Davey suggests you can show respect by sharing how you’re invested in the outcome and leaving room for the person to share their take on the matter.

Is it timely and frequent? 

Is the recipient getting feedback regularly and in a timeframe that they can easily act upon? Feedback should be given frequently. Also, consider how you can time your feedback so that it will have maximum impact.

On the one hand, you want to avoid giving feedback too soon. It’s important to take time to collect your thoughts and gather relevant facts, metrics, and information—your feedback shouldn’t come across as a snap judgment or empty praise. Harvard Business Review suggests using feedback to propose a solution to help the recipient move forward, and it will generally take some time to come up with something thoughtful if you’re following this model.

But on the other hand, you don’t want to wait too long to give feedback, either. Research has shown a correlation between how often people receive feedback and how engaged they are at work. In a Harvard Business Review article on performance management, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall write: “If you want people to talk about how to do their best work in the near future, they need to talk often. And so far we have found in our testing a direct and measurable correlation between the frequency of these conversations and the engagement of team members.”

Is this a situation where feedback is merited and expected?

Feedback shouldn’t just be given merely for the sake of giving feedback—it should occur when the giver believes it could truly benefit the recipient. Feedback can be most beneficial when a project wraps up, when it’s related to a skill that the person uses frequently and is likely to practice and improve, when there’s a problem that’s having a negative impact, and when you have information that will help someone develop based on their goals or role.

These five questions will help ensure that you’re giving feedback in a way that will have a positive impact on your coworkers and your organization.

How to Deliver High-Quality Feedback That Drives Performance

Topics: Employee Development, Continuous Feedback

Author: Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is a freelance copywriter who enjoys exploring the intersection of people and work.

Subscribe Here!