How to Give Meaningful Feedback

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We all grow when we know how to give and receive meaningful feedback. The stigma is that feedback is critical, destructive, condescending, and discouraging. But that is not the point of feedback at all! If you want to build a culture that thrives on trust, here are six steps (plus one bonus step!) to develop the art of giving meaningful feedback.

Step One: Give Clear Expectations

People can’t read your mind. A posted mission statement, goal, or rallying cry will get your team on the same page and aim in the right direction. Clearly state expectations of the culture and work ethic of your organization to reduce confusion and ease frustration. Not doing so may foster resentment, which will trickle down to everywhere else in the business. Clarity breeds confidence. A confident team takes action and completes the job.

Step Two: Have a Structured Meeting

As with anything, a plan reduces the chances of deviation or distraction from reaching the end objective. A feedback form, checklist, or rubric sent to team members ahead of time prepares them for what to expect. As a result, they don’t feel management constantly hounding them. When a consistent review of the plan in a structured meeting becomes part of the work culture, it contributes to the team staying on track while also allowing management to demonstrate respect for employees’ time and contributions.

Step Three: Prepare Your Mindset

When addressing an issue with a team member, prepare ahead to enter the meeting with your mind focused on a positive outcome. Readying yourself with only the best intentions reduces the risk of your feedback being received wrong. It is wise to enter a meeting without being fueled with emotions like anger or frustration — but if those feelings arise, always avoid physical demonstrations of negative emotions. Take some time to calm down in order not to say or do something you don’t mean.

Step Four: Have Regular Meetings

Do you know that feeling of being called to the principal’s office? A cultural phenomenon was instilled in us from childhood that if we are called into a meeting, it must mean we did something wrong. So, if you randomly call someone to meet with you, guess what? They might enter the meeting with a sense of surrender or defense rather than being eager and teachable. Contrarily, a regular meeting sets the expectation that communication is consistent, thereby combating defense mindsets. Regular meetings build relationships and offer opportunities to mentor your team and give feedback!

Step Five: Present with Good Delivery

It is a good idea to sandwich criticism with encouragement. An excellent elementary school example regarding positive language delivery, “2 Stars and a Wish”. The stars highlight the strong aspects, and the wish communicates growth opportunities. While adult work environments are not elementary school, the idea of presenting feedback as an opportunity for learning and growth rather than criticism is timeless. Delivery is everything. Delivering your feedback with a positive, growth-oriented spirit shows you care enough to encourage and teach.


Step Six: Ask for Feedback

If you can dish it, you must be able to take it. You cannot lead well if you aren’t willing to do what you expect others to do. Humble yourself and ask for feedback as well. Your team might see things you can’t see. Requesting feedback empowers your team and builds reciprocal trust. The spirit becomes, “We have each other’s backs as we work together to reach our shared goal!” Willingly receiving feedback demonstrates effective leadership that your team will respect.

**Bonus Step** Sprinkle in Positive Praise Meetings!

Conducting random “you are doing awesome” meetings is an excellent way to foster a teachable culture. Acknowledging positive things during formal, regularly scheduled meetings remains a given. However, if you spontaneously start calling people in to tell them what a good job they are doing, they will feel extra appreciated and more inspired to do excellent work.

If you follow these steps, you will create a feedback culture that isn’t something to dread. Instead, you will encourage employees to keep their eyes and ears open, always looking for ways to get better and grow together as a team.