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Quick Tips: Make the Most of Feedback

Feedback is instrumental to your career, but giving and receiving it effectively is a common stumbling block. Yes, it can be difficult to honestly tell someone they need to improve, and even harder to be in the position of hearing that information. But those who fail to embrace effective, honest, consistent feedback — giving it and receiving it, as a tool to both reinforce positive actions and to minimize potential trouble spots — are missing the mark as a leader.

Here are some feedback tips to make the most out of your development opportunities.

How to Give Feedback

An approach that uses the letters “SBI” is an easy way to remember how to provide effective feedback. It’s based on three steps:

  • Situation: The specific when/where of what you want to address, either for praise or to note the need for improvement.
  • Behavior: The what/how of the situation.
  • Impact: The outcome of the behavior, including why it’s praiseworthy and should be repeated or why it’s an issue and requires improvement.

As an example, you could say to an employee: “Yesterday at the staff meeting I noticed you stopped a side conversation by asking the group ‘What are our objectives and how will we meet them?’ This was great because it got the group back on track at a time when we had lost focus. You also encouraged everyone to think by asking an open-ended question rather than making a statement.”

This provides a specific time/place, a detailed action that was observed and positive reinforcement for repeatable behavior.

How to Receive Feedback

The key step here to is to embrace all feedback, whether positive or constructive, as a gift. This can be difficult at times, but regardless of whether you agree with what you’re being told in feedback, there is a universal value to it: You are being informed of others’ perceptions. It’s your job to manage those perceptions by continuing to do things well or by making adjustments.

However, there may be occasions where the feedback you’re receiving isn’t as helpful or as clear as you need it to be — it’s difficult to correct or reinforce your path if you aren’t sure about the specific behavior that’s being singled out for praise or for constructive criticism. Here are some probing questions/statements you can turn to as you seek clarity:

  • Can you give me an example?
  • Tell me what changes you would like to see moving forward.
  • What would success in this area look like?

As in all feedback discussions, these responses should be offered as professionally and unemotionally as possible. While constructive feedback can feel personal when you’re the recipient of it, you should remember that everyone’s focus should be the work, not the individuals involved.

Success Labs is a leadership-development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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