When we think, let alone hear the term “feedback”, we can become paralyzed at the thought of what we’ll hear about our performance. If you’re giving feedback, it feels uncomfortable. As much as we may not enjoy it, feedback is a necessary part of our growth. Keep reading to learn how to give and receive feedback.

What Is Feedback?

Feedback is a two-way communication system where a sender delivers a message to a receiver that is to be interpreted. It is the response given by the receiver after perceiving a message. Bartol & Martin define feedback as “…the receiver’s basic response to the interpreted message”. It is a peer-to-peer interaction and while it is primarily used in the workplace or school (reports), it can also be found and used in personal relationships and settings outside the office.

The Benefits of Feedback

Feedback is a vital communication process of any development. It set a good foundation for an effective performance management system for companies. When feedback is given and received well, it can result in phenomenal changes between the individuals, the organisation, and how it operates.

  • Improved performance. Individuals have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. This allows them to develop skills and stretch themselves.
  • Increased employee engagement. Employees become more active and interested in their advancement and will be more open to doing regular check-ins to assess their progress.
  • Motivation tool. Effective feedback and communication drives staff to reach individual goals and work harder together to achieve team and company objectives.
  • Keeps track of goals. Actionable targets given to individuals in feedback sessions create a clear target to aim for. This also makes it easier to achieve as the worker knows what steps they need to take.
  • Feedback enhances growth. “Unlearn to learn”. The goal of feedback is to promote individual, team, and an organisation’s growth. Effective feedback has great benefits that can contribute to individual and organizational success.

How to Give Feedback

At its core, feedback should focus on quality sessions and check-ins and focus less on the number of sessions you have. These sessions need to be focused, actionable and effective. Whatever capacity you’re in that requires you to give feedback, you need the right tools to ensure your message lands with the receiver. The OILS Framework is a powerful and structured tool that can be used to give and receive feedback. Let’s explore further below.

  • Observation. The first step is to frame the feedback from an objective standpoint. You should also refer to a specific event or time.
  • Impact/Interpretation. Here, you explain how the event and the actions affected you – how you felt or behaved.
  • Listen. This step invites the receiver to contribute to the exchange and provide context, an apology, or an explanation for their behaviour. This will also allow the receiver to be an active participant in the dialogue and not feel like they are being ‘spoken at’ instead of being ‘spoken with/to’.
  • Suggestion. The last technique in the framework brings it all together. As the giver, you can provide some thoughts and suggestions on the next steps to take and how best to move forward. You can come up with an action plan with things you both can do for a better outcome.

OILS is a simple yet powerful framework for effective feedback.

How to Receive Feedback

We would all rather not hear any negative feedback relating to our performance in any area. However, an inability to tolerate feedback is an inability to allow yourself personal growth. We need to recognise that all feedback, when given properly, can be received openly and with an understanding that it’s an opportunity to grow in certain areas.

  • Be open. Hearing feedback is not the brightest part of anyone’s day. It is however important to remain open to hear the feedback. Good or bad, receive and then decide on how you will proceed with what has been given to you.
  • Be an active listener. During the feedback session, try to repeat and affirm what you have heard. This active listening skill allows you to hear the truth, no matter how hard, without being defensive. It ensures you’ve heard what is being said and not the emotions that comes with it.
  • Review. Request clarity. Ask questions. Take time to process what was discussed and come back for a follow-up conversation, if necessary.
  • S.I.F.T through the feedback. The SIFT acronym means you should consider the source (who is the feedback coming from), impact (what is the impact of the feedback given), frequency (is this something you hear often or is it the first time the issue is being raised) and trends (is this feedback coming from work, home, school or other) from your feedback session.

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Learning how to give and receive feedback is an ongoing process that requires practice and a healthy dose of honesty. But it can get better over time. It’s a two-way street that needs to be given and received constructively for lasting change and impact.

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