How to Give Feedback that Actually Works

4 Skills to Master

leeann renninger

“The way most people give feedback isn’t actually brain friendly.”

As we navigate leading and managing people virtually, it is even more critical to offer real-time feedback for guiding and driving performance while people are working remotely. Do not neglect this critical skill while your team is distanced and isolated. According to Gallup, these are the three things that drive engagement and performance levels for all of us:

  1. doing what we’re good at
  2. receiving real-time coaching and feedback
  3. knowing our ideas are valued and have an impact

The best way to elevate these engagements and performance drivers is through feedback even if the feedback must be virtual. Be careful though, most people lean on two ineffective approaches to giving feedback:

  • People who “hint and hope.” They send subtle messages that usually go unnoticed. For example, instead of saying, “Geez, you’re such an optimist!” Say instead, “It’s important for us to look at best and worst-case scenarios so we’re not blindsided. Let’s consider the downside as well.”
  • People who are blunt and direct. They hold nothing back and in response, people’s defensiveness accelerates and they either fight, flee, freeze or fawn. Blunt and direct feedback givers will often use phrases that justify their style. For example, same issue just a different approach – a team member might start the meeting by saying, “Look, in full transparency, your optimism is not helpful; you need to be more strategic in your thinking.” Say instead, “Strategically, we need to look at best and worst-case scenarios so we are not blindsided. Let’s consider the downside as well.”

Neither methods are productive; in fact, both are toxic to engagement and performance. There is a much more effective approach. LeeAnn Renninger offers a simple and powerful 4 step formula for giving feedback that is brain-friendly and will help people improve:

  1. Create buy-in by asking for a micro-yes. “Do you have 5 minutes to talk about our last conversation?”
  2. Avoid blur words and don’t talk in generalizations. Instead, be specific and give data about exactly what should change. Instead of saying, “You seem very disorganized and stressed lately.” Say instead, “I have not received the report you promised; can you have it to me by the end of business today?”
  3. Share an Impact Statement – how the feedback impacts you and others. “When I didn’t receive your report, we had to cancel our meeting last minute and now it’s delayed by a week.”
  4. End with an impact question after sharing the feedback. “What do you think?”

What can you do?

Do a personal and professional assessment on yourself. Do you hint and hope or are you blunt and direct? If you’re interested in affecting change and developing people with your feedback, then neither style will get you the results you want. Instead,

  • Gain team buy-in by challenging your team to practice the 4 step formula.
  • Avoid subtleties and blur words.
  • Hold people accountable to sharing data and specifics.
  • Commit to being clear – it’s kind and helpful.

For more, listen to Dr. Renninger discuss the secret to giving great feedback.