Creatives around the world breathe a collective heavy sigh at the response, “I’ll know it when I see it!”
Ambiguous feedback and indecisiveness are commonplace when projects are due yesterday and subjectivity among stakeholders with different objectives reign.
Vague responses don’t offer tangible direction, and as a result, a small margin for measured improvement. Similarly, positive feedback that lacks detail prevents us from understanding aspects of our process or product that made the mark. So how can we give feedback that’s actually worthwhile?
Effective feedback typically incorporates several elements:
- It’s immediate. Commenting the moment (or very shortly thereafter) allows the individual to note specific changes that need to be made while the material is fresh and front of mind. When feedback is given weeks or even months after the fact, it’s rarely helpful because it relies on (often faulty) memory recall that may be too vague to implement.
- It’s objective. Include factual observations regarding the person’s behavior (leave out assumptions and judgments about intent or character). This creates a climate that encourages reflection and sharing and avoids putting the listener on the defensive. (e.g. “It came off as rude that you didn’t let the audience participate” vs “You spoke faster than usual and I noticed there wasn’t enough time for questions at the end of your presentation.”)
- It’s actionable. Great feedback is highly specific and measurable towards a particular task or goal. Ambiguous, general feedback leaves room for interpretation. Ask yourself, is this going to help push our task forward? How will we measure progress? That’s the difference between telling someone “you’re falling behind” vs. “your output is down 20%, I want you to gain at least ten new leads next month.” It’s hard to improve when there’s no benchmark.
- It’s balanced. Praise is rewarding and reinforces a job well done. Genuine comments can help reduce the negative impact of criticism. Using objective examples when giving praise lets the receiver know exactly what they did well. Also, consider potential solutions when delivering negative feedback, it shows the recipient you’re invested in their improvement and in finding a solution rather than just dolling out criticism.
What components do you think make up effective feedback? How can we as peers, clients, CEOs, managers and partners communicate more authentically when relaying information?