Feedback is important in both personal and professional development. When given or received properly, it becomes the catalyst for change and the point of reference for improvement. But there can be times when feedback may be interpreted as criticism. This is why it must be provided constructively. Otherwise, the receiver won’t see it as a tool for growth.

In this blog post, we’ll share tips for providing and receiving constructive feedback and how you can use them for your personal and professional development.

Benefits of Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is a mix of both positive and negative feedback based on a person’s past behavior or performance. The goal of constructive feedback is to improve an individual personally or professionally. The qualities include:

  • Balanced – Containing both positive and negative feedback
  • Objective – Based on observation and not interpretation
  • Timely – Given at the right time when the feedback is still relevant and can be actioned
  • Specific – Is based on exact situations and offers specific recommendations for improvement

Constructive feedback creates an environment where individuals can grow and improve. It can:

  • Boost self-confidence and morale
  • Assist in personal and professional growth
  • Clarify expectations and guide individuals on how to meet expectations and goals
  • Shape future behavior

In the workplace setting, these benefits enable individuals to become better contributors to the organization’s performance. Motivated employees have better relations with team members and perform at their best.

Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

Be clear on why the feedback is given

Explain why you’re having a feedback discussion and why it’s important for the receiver’s personal and professional development. To provide context, cite specific examples where performance or behavior could have been better.

Focus on behavior, not the personality

Feedback should be based on what the person did and not who the person is. When feedback is based on behavior, receivers are more likely to listen and take action.

Provide suggestions and recommendations

Give specific recommendations or suggestions on how to improve. Focus your feedback on actionable things.

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Opt for face-to-face feedback

As much as possible, give feedback during a face-to-face conversation. This removes the possibility of misinterpretation which can happen when feedback is delivered through email or phone. If the receiver is not co-located with you, consider having a video call.

Give feedback at the right time and place

Schedule a one-on-one discussion with the recipient and refrain from giving feedback publicly, especially when it contains negative points. This prevents receivers from feeling singled out and taking the feedback personally. Make sure that you provide feedback when the recipient has an opportunity to apply your improvement points.

Highlight both the good and the bad

Show appreciation for a job well done and encouragement for improvement areas. Praise retains and boosts the recipient’s self-esteem and encouraging words aimed to correct past performance helps recipients become more accepting of the feedback.

When providing negative feedback, try the STAR/AR format:

  • Situation or Task – the situation or task that brought about the feedback
  • Action – what the person did during the situation/task
  • Result – the result or consequence of the action done
  • Alternative Action – the suggested course of action for the situation/task
  • Alternative Result – the possible enhanced outcome if the alternative action is done

For purely positive feedback, the format can be reduced to STAR.

Give the recipient a chance to respond

Remember that an effective feedback discussion is a two-way street. Ask the person what they think about the feedback. Actively listen when they speak and offer assistance in planning how they can improve.

Tips for Receiving Constructive Feedback

Be prepared to listen

Habit #5 on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” When we are on the receiving end of feedback, it’s easy to feel judged or criticized. But when we keep an open mind and carefully listen to the person’s feedback, we’ll realize that it’s for our good. Keep your mind clear from distracting thoughts and be present in the conversation.

Ask for details when necessary

Not everyone can deliver constructive feedback. But treat each feedback discussion as an opportunity to learn about yourself. Probe and ask as many details as you can so you have an accurate understanding of what you need to improve.

Confirm your understanding

Articulate the feedback in your own words to verify if your interpretation is correct. This ensures that you and you’re feedback provider are on the same page.

Develop an action plan

Solicit suggestions from your feedback provider on how you can improve. You will use these points to plan for your future actions. If you’re using Personal Kanban, you can put your action plan on your Kanban board to keep track of what you need to do and how you’re progressing towards them. If you haven’t tried Personal Kanban, this can be a good time to start.

Use Feedback as Seeds for Growth

Though feedback is based on past actions, we should not dwell on the past. We should use the feedback we get to enhance our future actions. Treat each feedback as a seed needed for growth. To do this, you need to be like good soil – nurturing and accepting. When you do this, you can see that you are capable of blossoming a better version of yourself. And when given the chance, return the favor of constructive feedback and provide seeds for growth to others.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.