Effective Feedback is Critical to Growth

Effective feedback is critical to personal growth and to business growth. We all have blind spots, and outside perspectives on our performance can provide helpful lenses to illuminate areas of our lives that need some attention if we are to continue to develop in our careers and relationships. Feedback has the potential to be a tremendous catalyst for growth if both given and received well.

In the Harvard Business Review article, Feedback that Works, Cynthia Phoel writes that for managers, feedback is “an important tool for shaping behaviors and fostering learning that will drive better performance.” For direct reports, “it’s an opportunity for development and career growth.” Below are ways the article suggests managers can improve this significant process of providing feedback:

  • Focus on business outcomes – When the focus of feedback is on the business outcome it shifts the discussion to an opportunity to solve a problem rather than an opportunity to criticize. Additionally, Ms. Phoel states that when the focus of feedback is on the employee’s development “feedback becomes a gift of someone investing in the recipient’s career.”
  • Give feedback often – The article asserts that feedback is most effective when it is an ongoing process and not only in formal reviews a couple times a year. The article recommends praising good performance quickly and providing negative feedback within 24 hours. Before providing feedback it is important to: be specific about the behavior and to avoid judging the motivation or intent behind the behavior; be able to articulate to the person how the behavior is impacting the team; and be direct in what you would like the person to do differently
  • Don’t assume you are right – This attitude of humility is important in so many contexts including in the context of providing feedback. Ms. Phoel poignantly states, “Just as you want your employee to listen with a willingness to be influenced by what he hears, you need to be willing to be influenced by what you hear.”
  • Ask questions – Questions assist you in collecting more information about the situation, and when they are asked well and with curiosity (as opposed to accusatorially), it can help create a supportive atmosphere inviting the employee to get curious about how to improve her performance.
  • Follow through – Follow through is critical when it comes to implementing change. In order to ensure follow through, it is important to help your employee think through the next steps to successfully implement new behaviors. It is also a way for you to support your employee in making progress in changing behavior. This is a vital step to move feedback from discussion to action.
  • Gather feedback on how you give feedback – While this can be a vulnerable question for a manager, gathering feedback on what your employee thought of the conversation and ways you can be more helpful is an important tool for your growth as well.

A few questions for reflection: How often do you give feedback? Did any of these suggestions stand out to you? Are there ways to improve how you give feedback? What will you implement next time you need to provide feedback?

About the Author
Hilary Tricerri is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Grants practice. To get in touch with Hilary, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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