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Foster Effective Feedback in the Workplace

Train employees to effectively give, ask for, receive, and act on feedback.

  • While the importance of employee feedback is well known, feedback exchange is often infrequent or low quality.
  • Organizations need to foster an environment where all feedback actions are supported. Training for managers and employees can help them understand what a feedback environment looks like and equip them with the skills necessary to engage in effective feedback exchanges.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Effective feedback positively impacts many critical functions within the organization. It improves engagement, morale, innovation, performance, and professional and personal growth.
  • Ingraining effective feedback practices into everyday processes can positively impact employees and the productivity of the organization as a whole.
  • It is necessary to foster a trusting and safe environment where employees feel comfortable and encouraged to engage in feedback dialogue with their managers, peers, and direct reports.
  • Managers and individual contributors alike have a shared ownership and accountability in the feedback process. All employees need to work toward developing their own competence with the feedback process.

Impact and Result

  • Deliver effective feedback skills training to cultivate an organizational environment where meaningful, well-intended, and respectful feedback is shared frequently and openly among employees at all levels.
  • Foster a positive feedback environment as a result of training and see an increase in employee engagement, enhanced recognition, and a positive impact on the bottom line.


Foster Effective Feedback in the Workplace

Manager Training Deck

Speaker’s notes:
Welcome to today’s training session on fostering effective feedback skills.

Training Overview

Target Audience: Managers

Training Length: One half-day (4 hours)

Training Materials

  • Speaker’s notes are included in the notes pane section of each slide. Use these to plan and practice the training session. Note: Text in italics is written to the facilitator and is not meant to be read aloud.
  • Activity slides are scattered throughout this training deck and are clearly marked “Activity” in a bar on the left side of the slide. Instructions for activity facilitation can be found in the notes section of each slide.
  • Discussion questions are also scattered throughout this training deck and are clearly marked “Discussion" in a bar on the left side of the slide. Instructions for leading these discussions can be found in the notes section of each slide.

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize the importance of an effective feedback environment.
  2. Identify the elements of organizational culture that are required for an effective feedback environment.
  3. Build the skills to engage in effective feedback practices.
  4. Action plan to improve feedback practices on your team and in the organization.


Recommended Customizations The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

  • Review all slides and adjust the language or content as needed to suit your organizational context and culture.
  • The pencil icon above indicates slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes, e.g. adding in an organization-specific process.
  • Customization instructions are found in the notes pane.

Tips:

  • Adjust the speaker’s notes as needed on the slides before or after any slides you modify or delete to ensure logical transitions between slides.
  • Update the agenda to reflect new timings if major modifications are made.
  • Even seasoned leaders need to be reminded of the basics now and again. Rather than delete more basic slides, cut back on the amount of time spent covering them and frame the content as a refresher.

Training Session Materials:


Recommended metrics to track progress

Kirkpatrick’s Learning Evaluation Model:
The standard for measuring training effectiveness
Measure each level by collecting and tracking the following before and after training:
Level 4: Results
To what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement.
  • Productivity levels of training participants
  • Percentage of project post-mortems that attribute project success to feedback
Level 3: Behavior
To what degree participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.
  • Employee engagement survey questions specific to feedback
  • 360-degree feedback results on feedback-related competencies
  • Observations of participants on relevant feedback actions during the three-month and six-month check-ins
Level 2: Learning
To what degree participants acquire the intended KSAs, confidence, and commitment.
  • Participant test results on concepts from training as well as on their confidence level assessed immediately after training
  • Use the provided Foster Effective Feedback Training Session Knowledge Check
Level 1: Reaction
To what degree participants react favorably to the training.
  • Training session participants’ reaction to the content, facilitator, resources, and other session components
  • Use the provided Training Session Evaluation Form
(Source: J. Kirkpatrick & W. Kirkpatrick)

Agenda

Time Topic
1:00pm – 1:40pm Welcome & overview
Mind mapping – feedback
Why do people feel reluctant about sharing feedback?
1:40pm – 2:40pm Create a culture of feedback – scenario discussions
2:40pm – 2:50pm Break
2:50pm – 4:00pm Practice planning to give feedback
Roleplay feedback actions and directions
4:00pm – 4:45pm Strategies to address challenges to sharing feedback
Make a personal commitment
Wrap-up and questions

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Today, we will be speaking about fostering effective feedback skills. This is a high-level overview of the agenda.
  • We will take one ten-minute break, approximately at the halfway point through the training.
  • We will wrap up by 4:45pm.

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize the importance of an effective feedback environment.
  2. Identify the elements of organizational culture that are required for an effective feedback environment.
  3. Build the skills to engage in effective feedback practices.
  4. Action plan to improve feedback practices on your team and in the organization.

Speaker’s Notes:
Our goal today is to help you improve your feedback exchanges and create an effective feedback environment in our organization. With that aim in mind, we have laid out four key objectives for today’s training:

  1. Recognize the importance of an effective feedback environment.
  2. Identify the elements of organizational culture that are required for an effective feedback environment.
  3. Build the skills to engage in effective feedback practices.
  4. Action plan to improve feedback practices in your team and in the organization.

Activity

What does feedback mean to you?

Speaker's Notes

The word “feedback” can bring up a number of different thoughts and emotions, both positive and negative. Let’s take a minute to discuss what feedback means to you. I have written the word “Feedback” on the board. I want you to shout out whatever comes to your mind when you think of this word, and I will capture it on the board.

What is effective feedback?

Feedback is:

Information about the past, given in the present, with the goal of influencing behavior or performance for the future.

Feedback includes information given for reinforcement or redirection.

Feedback is not:

  • Coaching. Coaching is a relationship that uses feedback as a tool.
  • Criticism. Criticism provides information on what behaviors or actions were wrong, but it does not provide solutions on how to remedy issues.

Speaker's Notes

We are here today because effective feedback positively impacts many critical functions within the organization. Through this training, we hope to foster an environment within our organization where meaningful, well-intended, and respectful feedback is shared frequently and openly among employees at all levels. We’re striving to ingrain effective feedback practices into everyday processes where it can positively impact our employees and the productivity of the organization as a whole, and we’re committed to fostering a trusting and safe environment where employees feel comfortable and encouraged to engage in feedback dialogue with their managers, peers, and direct reports.

Managers and individual contributors alike have a shared ownership and accountability in the feedback process. The organization expects all employees to work toward developing their own competence with the feedback process.

It’s important to remember that feedback doesn’t just occur from manager to employee. You can give feedback to colleagues and to the organization. Furthermore, employees should feel able to give feedback to their managers. And it’s not just about giving feedback – you also have to be open to receiving it as well.

Feedback is:

  • Information about the past, given in the present, with the goal of influencing behavior or performance for the future.
  • Information that we are constantly giving or receiving, whether we intend to or not.
  • Information that is a mix of guiding and directing.

Feedback includes:

  • Information given for reinforcement – Feedback intended to encourage the recipient to repeat desired actions in the future; and
  • Information given for redirection – Feedback intended to create a shift in the recipient's behavior.

Feedback is not:

  • Coaching – Coaching is a relationship, typically between a manager and an employee, that uses feedback as a tool to help employees grow; nor is it…
  • Criticism – Criticism provides information on what behaviors or actions were wrong, but it does not provide solutions on how to remedy issues for the future.

Do you see any similarities in this definition with what we just brainstormed about feedback? Any differences?

Organizational benefits of feedback include improved innovation and engagement

(McLean & Company Engagement Survey Data, 2020; N=173 orgs.)
Organizations that report their managers provide high-quality feedback to employees have higher levels of engagement and innovation. Organizations that report their senior management acts on employee feedback have higher levels of engagement and innovation.
A double-bar chart comparing the effect of manager feedback quality on engagement and innovation. The y-axis is the Avg. percentage of 'agree' or 'strongly agree' responses. Two bars for each metric represent: 'Manager Provides Feedback Score Above the 90th Percentile' and 'Manager Provides Feedback Score Below the 10th Percentile'. For the metric 'Engaged', above 90th scored 67% and below 10th scored 58%. For the metric 'This organization encourages innovation', above 90th scored 68% and below 10th scored 57%. A double-bar chart comparing the effect of acting on employee feedback on engagement and innovation. The y-axis is the Avg. percentage of 'agree' or 'strongly agree' responses. Two bars for each metric: one represents 'Senior Management Acts on Employee Feedback Score Above the 90th Percentile' and the other ca be assumed to represent 'Senior Management Acts on Employee Feedback Score Below the 10th Percentile'. For the metric 'Engaged', above 90th scored 71% and below 10th scored 58%. For the metric 'This organization encourages innovation', above 90th scored 70% and below 10th scored 57%.

Speaker’s Notes:
So why should we care about feedback? Well, there are both personal and organizational benefits to giving and receiving effective feedback. First let’s discuss the organizational ones, since they have such a broad impact.

The first one seems obvious - performance improves when effective feedback is present. In general, the more effectively you are able to work with one another and share timely, well-intended, meaningful feedback, the higher the overall performance of the organization will be. By contrast, the absence of strong feedback practices leads to ambiguity in terms of desired performance, delays in receiving critical feedback to improve performance, and strained relationships between managers and employees as well as among team members. These issues tend to impact all levels of the organization if they aren’t addressed.

McLean & Company’s engagement survey data shows us additional organizational benefits to improving feedback:

  1. Improved engagement and higher morale is present in organizations who report having effective feedback practices.
    This data shows that organizations that report that their managers provide high-quality feedback to employees and that their senior management acts on the feedback they receive from employees also have higher levels of engagement. There is a clear connection between effectively giving and receiving feedback and the individual drivers that impact employee engagement.
  2. Effective feedback is also critical to enhancing innovation.
    Organizations that report that their managers provide high-quality feedback to employees and that their senior management acts on the feedback they receive from employees also report having higher levels of innovation.

There are also personal benefits to engaging in effective feedback

The presence of manager feedback improves employee perception of their career advancement potential
A stacked bar chart comparing percentages of employees who believe they can advance, can't advance, or are neutral in three instances: when a manager 'Rarely provides feedback', 'Occasionally provides feedback', and 'Regularly provides feedback'. When managers rarely provide feedback, 54% don't believe they can advance, 31% are neutral, and 16% believe they can advance. When managers occasionally provide feedback, 20% don't believe they can advance, 49% are neutral, and 31% believe they can advance. When managers rarely provide feedback, 8% don't believe they can advance, 27% are neutral, and 64% believe they can advance.
Employees who responded positively to the statement:

“My manager provides me with high-quality feedback”

are 4.1 times more likely to also have responded positively to the statement:

"I can advance my career in this organization."

(McLean & Company Engagement Survey Data, 2020; N=101,321)

Speaker’s Notes:
Now, let’s talk about personal benefits – what’s in it for us, as managers? Well, feedback helps with professional and personal growth.

  • Let’s look at the data again: here McLean & Company’s engagement survey data shows that employees who report they receive quality feedback from their managers also feel they can advance their careers. In fact, employees who responded positively to the statement “My manager provides me with high-quality feedback” are 4.1 times more likely to also have responded positively to the statement "I can advance my career in this organization."
  • As we discussed on the previous slide, feedback can lead to higher performance. At the individual level, higher performance and success in one’s role can lead to opportunities for professional growth, whether that means a change in position, accountabilities, or salary. It may also open the door to opportunities for employees to join cross-functional teams and work on specialized, one-off, or non-standard projects that enhance their professional portfolio.

Also, remember, effective feedback skills are valuable both in and out of the workplace.

  • Being comfortable engaging in feedback dialogue is an important life skill that can be used with your friends and family, in addition to your colleagues at work.

Being able to effectively engage in feedback dialogues will help you build stronger relationships.

  • Trust and respect help to strengthen interpersonal relationships, and feedback is an important component of both of those values.
  • Trust can be established by way of engaging in open feedback conversations with the intention of setting up one another and the team for success.

Despite the benefits of feedback, we aren’t doing it well The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Giving feedback occurs at a low rate. Only 61% of employees and managers surveyed give feedback. Departmental feedback is also an issue. Less than 60% of employees felt their feedback would be taken seriously and acted on. Executives received the lowest scores when it came to acting on feedback and asking for it.
A bar chart comparing ''% of respondents that agreed or strongly agreed' to certain questions. 'In the last year, I have made many recommendations for improvements to the organization' received 61%. 'My manager provides me with high-quality feedback' received 61%. 'If I make a suggestion to improve something in my department, I believe it will be taken seriously' received 58%. 'My department's executive leader acts on employee feedback' received 53%. 'Senior management acts on the feedback from employees' received 43%. (McLean & Company Engagement Survey Data, 2020; N=126,640)

Speaker’s Notes:

Despite the benefits that feedback can bring to us all, it’s clear from our engagement data that we are not doing it well.

If you do not have your own organization’s data on this topic, use the McLean & Company data and the following Speaker’s Notes:
“Our goal is to create an engaging and high-performing culture through feedback. This means we need to get better at not only giving feedback but also being open to receiving and acting on feedback that is given to us.”

Feedback actions and directions

A diagram of 'Feedback Actions' beside a list of 'Feedback Directions'. In a circle around 'Feedback Actions' are 'Give', 'Ask', 'Receive', and 'Act'. Listed directions are 'Upward', 'Downward', 'Peer to Peer', and 'Organizational'.

Speaker’s Notes:
There are four distinct actions and directions associated with effective feedback practices.

The four feedback actions – give, ask, receive, and act – impact each of the four feedback directions – upward, downward, peer to peer, and organizational – in slightly different ways. All of the actions are equally important in ensuring that feedback is exchanged in a respectful, productive, and appropriate way.

The four directions of feedback are:

  • Upward – when an employee provides feedback to another employee who is at a higher level in the organization – typically this is employees providing feedback to their managers;
  • Downward – when an employee provides feedback to another employee who is at a lower level in the organization – this is most commonly managers providing feedback to their direct reports;
  • Peer to peer – when employees provide feedback to colleagues at similar levels; and
  • Organizational – when employees provide feedback to the organization as a whole.
    • We won't go into detail on this last piece, but I do want to point out that we have several processes in place for you to provide feedback to the organization. These include [Insert a comprehensive list of organizational feedback mechanisms available to your employees, e.g. annual engagement survey, anonymous suggestion box].

Certain actions and directions, such as giving downward and receiving upward, tend to be more familiar, as you likely engage in those conversations most frequently, whereas others can be less comfortable.

We will dive into these actions and directions later in the session.

Activity

Why do people feel reluctant about sharing feedback?

Feedback Directions

  • Upward
  • Downward
  • Peer to Peer
  • Organizational

Speaker’s Notes:
Let’s begin with an activity that gets us thinking about why people in our organization may feel reluctant to share feedback in each of the feedback directions.

I will divide you into four groups. Each group will go to a flip chart and write down all the reasons you can think for why people may feel reluctant to give feedback in that direction. After three minutes, your group will move to the next flip chart and build on the notes that are already there. We will do this until every group has discussed all four directions.

Use the content below to help facilitate brainstorming and/or cover any challenges that are not identified by the group but present in your organization.

Upward Feedback Challenges:

  • Managers are not requesting feedback or positioning it as an expectation.
  • Employees fear hidden or unknown consequences if their manager does not appreciate feedback being shared.
  • Managers are sticking to the performance review times to give or receive feedback, which is not frequent enough.
  • Managers have many direct reports and are concerned about receiving too much feedback.

Downward Feedback Challenges:

  • Employees are uncomfortable discussing feedback with higher-up positions due to:
    • Not having the proper skills.
    • Being new to the team and unfamiliar with your feedback style.
    • Being uncomfortable with the power dynamic that you hold as the person with more control.
    • Having had past experiences with feedback that were uncomfortable or unfruitful.
  • Managers are not comfortable engaging in feedback with their employees.
  • Employees are not receptive to feedback.

Peer-to-Peer Feedback Challenges:

  • The peer’s style and receptiveness to feedback behaviors is not very well known.
  • There is a misunderstanding of what the feedback boundaries are and who can give that feedback to the peer.
    • For example, if the peer is not somebody that works in your immediate team, you may be unsure whether or not you can give them feedback. Taking the time to figure out what you can and can’t share with another employee can cause delays in sharing the feedback.

Organizational Feedback Challenges:

  • There is a lack of feedback channels to the organization or employees don’t know what feedback channels are available.
  • The organization has a history of not acting on or acknowledging feedback.
    • It can be discouraging if you have shared feedback with the organization before that hasn’t been acknowledged or acted on. Note that this is the same discouragement an employee or peer that has shared feedback with you may also feel if you do not acknowledge or act on it.
  • Senior leaders have a history of not encouraging feedback.

Feedback is a product of relationships and culture

“…the form that most interpersonal feedback takes – a conversation between two people – can trick us into seeing it as a product of the relationship when it’s equally (if not more so) a product of the surrounding culture.” (Ed Batista, “Building a Feedback-Rich Culture,” HBR)

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Let’s step back and take a broader view of the points you have come up with.
  • Some of the challenges you identified have to do with the individuals in question, whether these are the managers, employees, or peers. For example, a particularly thin-skinned person would make it uncomfortable for their manager, peers, or direct reports to share feedback. However, some other factors have less to do with the character of the individuals and more with the context they operate in.
  • Ed Batista writes in his Harvard Business Review article, “Building a Feedback-Rich Culture”: “The form that most interpersonal feedback takes — a conversation between two people — can trick us into seeing it as a product of the relationship when it’s equally (if not more so) a product of the surrounding culture.”
  • If sharing feedback is engrained in the culture of the organization as a normal, safe practice, people would be more inclined to engage regardless of their personal habits or preferences. If giving or asking for feedback is uncommon (or unheard of!), they would feel it is a risk to speak out. They could worry about the consequences: Am I going to step on someone’s toes? Am I going to make enemies? Will I be penalized? ... Even feedback received can feel a lot more personal and intimidating if it is rarely shared.

Foster the culture elements that are conducive to an effective feedback environment

  • Trust
  • Growth Mindset
  • Professional Communication
  • Role Modeling by Leadership

Speaker’s Notes:

  • I am sure you have heard it said before in many companies, “We are very open to feedback.” I am sure you will also agree with me that this was not always the case or at least it did not feel to employees that this was the case. It is easy to invite people to share feedback, but what makes a culture safe enough to convince people to act on the invitation?
  • We have identified a few elements that, when ingrained in an organization’s culture, are conducive to an effective feedback environment.

Build a healthy level of trust

Trust
  • The belief that feedback is coming from a place of care and interest in the common good.
  • Credibility is built over time by being consistently fair, objective, and truthful.
Growth Mindset
Professional Communication
Role Modeling by Leadership

Speaker’s Notes:

Trust:
Why do we ask for advice or a second opinion from a friend or family member? Why are we more likely to consider their feedback even if it is not exactly what we were hoping to hear? Because we know they have our best interests at heart. We trust that their feedback, even if we do not agree with it, is not meant to hurt or offend us. They are sharing their honest opinion because they want to help us.

We are less likely to ask someone for feedback when we have questions about their intentions or agenda. We would also be more wary of giving someone feedback when we have not developed a certain level of trust with them. We might be worried about their reaction. Will they be offended? Will they misinterpret our feedback? Will they push back or even retaliate?

For people in an organization to feel comfortable sharing feedback, there needs to be a healthy level of trust between them – the belief that feedback is coming from a place of care and interest in the common good. You might not agree with what I have to say. You might think my feedback is not valid, but you know you and I share the same goal.

Advocate a growth mindset

Trust
Growth Mindset
  • A frame of mind that views mistakes as learning opportunities and believes improvement is always possible.
  • Creates a level of normalcy about sharing feedback.
Professional Communication
Role Modeling by Leadership

Speaker’s Notes:

Growth mindset:
Having a sense of trust and safety is a non-negotiable part of the equation, but there is another factor that also determines people’s openness to feedback: their motivation to get better and do a better job. Or what we refer to here as a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is a frame of mind that views mistakes as learning opportunities and believes improvement is always possible. When continuous improvement is the shared goal, feedback truly becomes a gift that brings everyone closer to the end in mind.

When this frame of mind is shared across the organization, feedback becomes a regular part of daily operations. There is a level of normalcy about giving and asking for feedback and it is no longer this scary event that only happens when something went wrong or someone messed up. It is just how things are done. As a matter of fact, a lot of the organizations that embrace this culture have feedback mechanisms built into their systems in the form of pre- and post-mortems, regular team meetings, internal surveys to solicit feedback, etc.

Model professional communication standards

Trust
Growth Mindset
Professional Communication
  • Keep conversations objective and civil and only address the matter under question.
  • Use collaborative language and do not tolerate blame, labeling, or character assassination under the disguise of a feedback culture.
Role Modeling by Leadership

Speaker’s Notes:

Professional communication:
For an organization to have a productive feedback environment, professional communication standards must be common practice. Discussions are expected to be objective and civil and to address only the matter under question. Sharing constructive feedback is no excuse for disregarding these expectations or not being courteous.

This does not mean you have to withhold constructive feedback or sugar coat everything. On the contrary, this can be equally counterproductive. Using praise to sandwich constructive feedback might come across as insincere or manipulative. While we recommend providing a lot more positive feedback than corrective or constructive feedback, make sure you only say what you mean and mean what you say.

Role model openness to feedback

Trust
Growth Mindset
Professional Communication
Role Modeling by Leadership
  • Leaders must set an example in effectively and collaboratively giving, receiving, and asking for feedback.

Speaker’s Notes:

Modeling by leadership:
How do we create an organizational culture where trust, a growth mindset, and productive communication are the norm? The answer brings us to the last and the most critical point: leaders must model these behaviors.

People do not believe what leaders say, they believe what they do. If leaders do not ask for feedback or react negatively when someone shares a different opinion or are quick to shut others down, the message they are sending is very clear: feedback is not welcome here. No amount of lip service will persuade people to speak out.

We will dedicate some time to discuss your role as people leaders, but now we want to pause and do some reflection with this activity.

Activity

Scenario discussions

Speaker’s Notes:

Now we are going to review some case studies in groups to analyze and identify behaviors that affect the feedback environment. Please take a minute to read each case individually and begin to think about the questions. When everyone at your table has read the case, start talking over the situation and discussing the questions together.

Think beyond who is at fault and focus on the behaviors that caused trouble. In the scenarios, as is often the case in real life, problems happen when well-meaning individuals use inappropriate language, make poorly timed remarks, or communicate in an ineffective manner. The objective of this activity is to spot and identify these behaviors so we can avoid them.

People leaders have additional accountability within an effective feedback environment

Additional accountabilities include:

  • Continuously encourage employees to engage in feedback actions.
  • Create a safe environment for employees/team to share feedback.
  • Encourage employees to improve their feedback and engage in feedback.
  • Ask for feedback on your role as a people manager.
  • Incorporate feedback into the work structure of the team.

Speaker’s Notes:
As a manager with people responsibilities, you probably have the strongest impact on how your team experiences and perceives the feedback environment for several reasons:

  • Manager relationships are a driver of a feedback environment. As we discussed earlier, feedback is a product of both the relationship and the surrounding environment. As manager and employee relationships tend to be the most defined and the most significant for the employee, they strongly influence how comfortable and willing employees are to give feedback.
  • Managers set the expectations for employees. This includes the expectation for exchanging feedback with one another, how the feedback is exchanged, and to what end.
  • Managers are role models of feedback. If managers are not considering how or when they share feedback, then neither will employees. Even those that do try can eventually get discouraged if they feel their feedback is being met with resistance or poor responses.

This does not mean that employees are not responsible for practicing feedback behaviors. It means as a manager you have additional responsibilities to:

  • Continuously encourage employees to engage in feedback actions.
    • Do this by, first and foremost, engaging in feedback actions yourself. Walk the talk!
    • Whenever possible, share positive outcomes that the feedback actions contributed to. For example, if a member of your team suggested a change in the process that resulted in increased efficiency, make sure to share the good news and reference the employee’s suggestion. This sends the message to your team that you listen and you are willing to act on their feedback. It gives employees hope for change and the confidence that you respect their input, which makes them more accepting and understanding at the times when you cannot honor their feedback.
  • Create a safe environment for employees/team to share feedback actions.
    • As discussed earlier, trust and safety are crucial elements in a feedback environment. Make sure your team knows you are willing and eager to listen to their feedback. Be consistent in your behavior and do not let your reactions be dependent on your mood. Nothing takes away from a sense of safety like a manager you need to tiptoe around because their reactions are unpredictable.
    • Again, a feedback culture does not mean anything goes. You need not, and should not, tolerate any disrespect toward yourself or other team members in the spirit of encouraging openness. These behaviors take away from the sense of safety; they do not support it. Clarify what will or will not be tolerated when it comes to sharing feedback. This includes what topics feedback is exchanged about and when and how feedback is exchanged.
  • Encourage employees to improve their feedback skills.
    • Take it one step further and actively coach employees on sharing feedback.
    • Work with employees to identify development opportunities for feedback skills and use materials from this training to help if necessary.
  • Ask for feedback on your role as people manager.
    • Don’t forget to get feedback on how you are supporting the team.
    • Being open to hearing feedback from others will help to create a safe environment, making it more likely your team will be willing to give and receive feedback.
  • The final accountability is to set and finalize feedback in the way the team operates. If you have autonomy over how your team gets their work done:
    • Build in feedback touch points. Creating the touch points formally will help pave the way for informal sharing down the line.
    • Involve employees in determining when these feedback touch points should occur. Asking for their thoughts empowers employees and ensures that a system is being reinforced that they are on board with.

Understand the importance of asking for feedback

Asking for feedback…

  • Encourages your employees to model asking
  • Makes employees feel comfortable sharing
  • Improves products/ services
  • Improves your standing with your employees
  • Helps you be a better manager
  • Signals to employees that they are valued

Speaker’s Notes:
Asking for feedback is incorporated in most of the behaviors we discussed, but I’d like to pause for a couple of minutes and give some special attention to it. As managers, asking for feedback might not come intuitively to us, especially when we are swamped with work or juggling many balls, but it is a very valuable tool for every people leader.

Ask employees for feedback on how you are doing as a manager, on how they believe things can be improved, and on how they themselves think that they are doing in terms of their performance and development goals.

Asking for feedback:

  • Encourages your employees to ask for feedback themselves.
    • As we just mentioned, your actions serve as a model for your employees on how they should be acting. By asking for feedback yourself, you are letting employees know that this is a behavior they should also be acting out.
  • Makes employees feel comfortable sharing.
    • Sharing feedback with one’s manager can be intimidating, especially if the relationship is new or expectations had not been clarified before. Eliminate employees’ uncertainty about whether or not they should share feedback with you by inviting them to do so.
  • Improves products/services.
    • Just like you, employees may have new or different ideas for how they can enhance the product or service your team provides. They may even have more direct contact with the development or deployment of the product or service than you do. Asking for their feedback can enhance the work you and your team do, creating more value for the organization.
  • Signals to employees that they are valued.
    • Reaching out to employees on a frequent basis to solicit their thoughts on a topic tells them you value their opinion. This is even more true when you are able to act on the feedback they have shared.
  • Improves your standing with your employees.
    • Employees tend to have a higher regard for managers who actively engage in feedback discussion, as it demonstrates their commitment to the team, their direct reports, and themselves.
  • Overall, helps you become a better manager.
    • Feedback is such an integral part of achieving success. By engaging in effective feedback practices you become a better manager, colleague, and performer.

Discussion

Question:

How do you overcome employees’ resistance to feedback?

Speaker’s Notes:

We have seen how a manager, like Sarah we talked about in the third case, can unintentionally cause their team to be apprehensive about speaking up. Employees might have had past experiences that hold them back; they might be new to their roles and still lack the confidence to speak up. You as a manager might be new to the role and the people around you are still testing the waters. We have discussed earlier the cultural elements that contribute to a feedback environment, but let’s face it, we do not always operate in these environments. So, what can you as a manager do to counteract an unsupportive environment? How can you mitigate resistance to feedback?

Consider the following suggestions to support the discussion:

Model the behavior.

  • When there is skepticism or mistrust, it is even more important to live the behaviors you want to ingrain in your team. It is what you do on a daily basis, not what you preach, that distinguishes the organization’s desired culture from its actual lived culture.
  • Being forthcoming and open about your own opportunities for improvement when it comes to sharing feedback will also help to bring your direct reports on board.

Create norms by building feedback discussions into everyday processes.

  • Make it easier for people to speak up by making the channels for sharing feedback readily available. Use regularly scheduled status meetings or team meetings as forums to share feedback.

Consider crowd-sourced feedback (CSF).

  • If the culture has a long way to go in terms of openness and trust, and your team seems to carry a lot of baggage, it might be harder to break the ice in person. People might feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts anonymously. Do not disregard such input; it might give you the best insight you can get into what your team actually thinks at present. As you build the habit and people get more comfortable voicing their thoughts, invite them to share their feedback in other formats.

Be generous with positive feedback.

  • If your manager only talks to you to tell you how something went wrong, it taints the whole experience of feedback for you. While you should always share both positive and constructive feedback, you might need to be extra generous with praise and recognition when there is a negative connotation around feedback conversations.

Show appreciation for feedback shared with you and give positive reinforcement when you observe effective feedback behavior.

  • Positive reinforcement will motivate employees to continue striving to engage in effective feedback sharing.

Crowd-sourced feedback (CSF) The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Customize this slide by adding content specific to your organization that calls out any form of crowd-sourced feedback you provide.

Examples include 360-degree assessments, engagement surveys, and pulse surveys.

Discussion

What are the key considerations?

Feedback Actions

  • Give
  • Ask
  • Receive
  • Act

Speaker’s Notes:

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are four feedback actions: give, ask, receive, and act.

To get us thinking about these different actions and their similarities and differences, let’s discuss as a group the key considerations that need to be made when you engage in each of the actions.

  1. Let’s begin with “give.” When you are giving feedback, what are the key things that you think about or do?
  2. What about when you are asking someone for their feedback?
  3. Think about a time when you’ve received feedback – again, what did you think about or do?
  4. And lastly, when it comes to acting on feedback that you’ve been given – are there certain things you consider or actions you take?

Debrief the discussion by calling attention to the common themes.

Key components of giving effective feedback

Effective Feedback Steps

  1. Prepare to share
    Key Components
    • Timing
    • Intention
  2. Communicate the feedback
    Key Components
    • Method
    • Clarification
    • Reactions
  3. Keep channels open
    Key Components
    • Follow-up

Speaker’s Notes:

As we learned during the activity, there are many things that must be considered when engaging in feedback actions. We can narrow these considerations down to six key components that can influence whether the feedback exchange is effective or unsuccessful. These are timing, intention, method, clarification, reactions, and follow-up.

We are first going to discuss these components with the focus on giving feedback. Any time you are engaging in giving feedback, there are three key steps or stages you should work through. The first is prepare to share.

  • Prior to communicating with another person, take a minute to consider if the timing of the feedback exchange is appropriate. Also, review your intention – look to uncover the underlying aim behind the feedback action.

Once you have decided on the right timing and clarified your intention for giving feedback, the next step is to communicate the feedback.

  • First, reflect on what method, or delivery medium, is most appropriate to share the information.
  • Focus on clarity by ensuring that at each point in the exchange there is no misunderstanding about what is being shared.
  • And, be prepared for the other party’s reaction, which could be positive, negative, or neutral.

Lastly, after the communication has taken place, it’s important to keep feedback channels open.

  • Follow up with the individual once reflection and/or action has occurred.

We will now go into more detail on these six components and discuss how each of them applies when giving feedback.

Then we will take a look at how the components apply to the other actions of receiving, asking, and acting on feedback. Each of these components impacts the feedback actions in different ways, and certain components are more relevant to specific feedback actions than others.

Prepare to share: Ensure it’s the proper time and clarify your intention

Timing

  • Don’t delay on giving feedback.
  • Consider: Is this an appropriate time to give feedback?

Intention

  • Determine what your desired outcome is for giving feedback.
  • Reflect: What’s the best way to communicate this intent?
  • Remember – provide positive feedback and recognition.

Speaker’s Notes:
Let’s begin by discussing timing. Whenever giving feedback, it is important to do so as close as possible to the situation that requires feedback. If too much time passes, the accuracy of the feedback can decrease as well as the ability of the recipient to absorb and apply the feedback.

This isn’t to say that you should rush to give feedback at all costs. Particularly if the feedback is negative, ensure that you have allowed sufficient time to reflect on what you will say and that the feedback recipient will have time to reflect on what they are told.

Can you think of certain times that you may want to avoid giving feedback? Pause and wait for answers.

Best practices suggest avoiding the following times:

  • High-pressure situations, such as the day of an important event or immediately before a deadline.
  • Circumstances that involve competing priorities. This includes days filled with meetings, when they are having to manage multiple deliverables for different stakeholders, or when they are working on several projects simultaneously.
  • Times of heightened emotion – such as when dealing with significant personal or professional issues, feeling under the weather, or immediately before or after vacation. Emotions can impact how well the person you are giving feedback to receives it.
  • Also, it’s important to reflect on your own emotions and to remember that feedback is meant to improve performance. If you are feeling angry or emotional, then you are in the wrong state to deliver feedback and should wait until you have a calm frame of mind (Solomon).

A good technique to use that will help you avoid giving poorly timed feedback is to ask the person permission to give them feedback. It’s as simple as saying, “Can I give you a piece of feedback?” This allows the person to take control over when they are prepared to engage in that dialogue. When they are open to the feedback, they will be better able to receive it and subsequently act on it.

However, be cautious about giving the individual too much autonomy over when they receive feedback. If the person is consistently avoiding hearing feedback, you will need to take control of the situation by, for example, scheduling a mandatory one-on-one meeting with them to ensure that the necessary feedback is delivered.

Also, prior to engaging in any of the feedback actions, it’s critical to think about your intent and how you can best convey this goal.

Before giving feedback, pause and ask yourself – why are you giving this feedback? Reflect on the following questions:

  • What is the desired outcome?
  • What do you hope to achieve by sharing feedback?
  • What will the emotional impact be on the person and on the team as a whole?

Taking the time to do this reflection will help you to determine if the feedback is really necessary and appropriate at this time. It will also help you to ensure you’re keeping the end goal in mind and are communicating in a way that ensures the other party can clearly understand your intention.

Too often we tend to think of feedback as only being used when someone’s done something wrong or behaviors need to change. It’s also very important to intentionally give positive feedback and not only as a way to soften negative feedback. When a manager asks to share feedback with their employee, it shouldn’t always be a sign that the employee has done something wrong (Ben Olds). Use sincere positive feedback as a way to give recognition and to highlight behaviors you want to see more of. Giving positive feedback will also help build relationships and trust with employees, which will, in turn, make them more open to receive your constructive feedback.

Activity

Practice planning to give feedback

Reflect:

  • Is your intention clear?
  • Are you being clear it’s a feedback conversation?
  • Is it thoughtful, direct, and helpful?
  • Is it future-focused and based on fact and actions rather than opinion?
  • How would you feel if you were receiving the feedback?

Speaker’s Notes:

One of the best ways to prepare for a feedback conversation is to practice the words you want to say. This involves taking what’s in your head and either writing it down or verbalizing it to a trusted individual. Often what we want to say and what actually comes out of our mouths are a little different – especially when in a situation where you may be feeling uncomfortable or emotions are heightened.

Doing this prep work will help ensure you are delivering your feedback in the best possible way – that you are not being patronizing or unclear about the intent of the feedback and your expectations.

Instructions:

  1. Think of a situation where you’ve recently given feedback that did not go as expected or of a situation where you need to provide someone with feedback.
  2. Turning to your Participant Handbook, take a few minutes now to write down how you will have the conversation. What exactly will you say? How will you open the conversation?
  3. When done, read it over to yourself. Reflect on the following:
    • Is your intention clear?
    • Is the fact that the conversation is a feedback conversation clear?
    • Is it thoughtful, direct, and helpful?
    • Is it future-focused and based on fact and actions rather than opinion?
    • Put yourself in their shoes – how would you feel if you were receiving that feedback?
  4. Did this activity bring up any aha moments or insights you’d like to share with the group?

Communicate the message: Use the appropriate method

Method

  • The nature of the feedback and the needs or personality of the person receiving the feedback are critical factors when deciding how to deliver feedback.
  • Use thoughtful verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Be specific and focus on changeable behaviors.
  • Remember – feedback is a dialogue.

Speaker’s Notes:
It is important to choose the most appropriate method for delivering feedback, whether in person, privately or in a team meeting, over the phone or in an email. The nature of the feedback and the needs or personality of the person receiving the feedback are critical factors in this decision and should be considered when exchanging feedback, each and every time.

It is often best to deliver developmental and constructive feedback face to face. If that is impossible, the next best option is over the phone, so that the individual can hear the intonation of your voice and has the opportunity to clarify the information they are hearing in the moment – lowering the possibility for misunderstandings.

Also, be sensitive to the needs of the person you’re giving feedback to. Use empathy to think of the situation from their point of view and how they may feel and respond.

The discussion of “method” also includes how you share the feedback, in terms of your words, attitude, and focus for the conversation.

  • It is necessary to clearly express that the purpose of the conversation is to give feedback. Giving feedback can be uncomfortable, and there can be a tendency to give feedback in a very casual way. However, if the individual is not clear on the real intention of the conversation, they may not take it as seriously as you would expect them to. Be direct that it is a feedback conversation, but also be kind – don’t be patronizing.
  • Feedback should be a dialogue. It’s not very effective to just talk at the person you are giving feedback to and not hear their perspective of the situation. In fact, a useful first step is to ask the person for their perspective or self-assessment of what you are about to share feedback on.
  • When giving feedback, it’s important to remember that your understanding of the situation is only one side of the story. Be careful not to come at it as though your perspective is the hard truth and the only version of the situation. Rather, according to Chris Chin, author of “The Gift of Collaborative Feedback,” you need to approach the feedback conversation with this in mind and explore the situation until you both arrive at the same version and can understand the real truth of what is happening.
  • As managers, you need to be aware of the power dynamic. Chris Chin also advises that if your goal is to have an open conversation, you need to de-power yourself. Watch your tone and your body language. Ensure that your nonverbal communication cues align with the feedback that you want to share, such as your use of eye contact, facial expression, posture, hand gestures, and space. Framing the conversation as a desire to reach a shared understanding can help as well as keeping your intention in mind.
  • When delivering constructive feedback, it can help to do it with the same emotion and enthusiasm that you would use when delivering positive feedback. When you do this, people tend to come away feeling positive about the feedback, even if it was constructive in nature.
  • This can include positively framing the message – for example, you could state, “I want to empower you and help you do better in your role, is now a good time to give you some feedback?” Another way to focus on the positive, even when delivering constructive feedback, is to give strength-based feedback. For example, you could say: “Even though there was a negative outcome this time around, you have strong skills in the following areas that will enable you to handle that situation more effectively next time. Here’s how I think you may be able to do that...what do you think?”

Whether you are delivering the feedback in person or in writing, be sure to focus on changeable behavior, be specific, and discuss impact (Donna Forde). Using language like “you’re ineffective” or “you need to be more hardworking” is unspecific and unhelpful. It can cause the person you are speaking with to freeze and go inward, and they are no longer able to listen or participate in the conversation (Chin).

Base feedback on demonstrated behaviors or actions and not on individuals’ personalities. These behaviors and actions should be things that are observable, that have been heard or seen, not assumed. Then, quickly move the conversation from what they did wrong to how they can improve in the future. The bulk of the feedback conversation should be future-focused.

Let’s take a minute to look back at the feedback preparation you wrote in the last activity. Based on the advice we’ve just covered, reflect on if there are ways you would change or alter your approach to the conversation.

Communicate the message: Ensure the information is understood

Clarification

  • Ask the receiver to repeat back the feedback given.
  • Address variances in perceptions.
  • Clarification does not always have to happen in the moment of the conversation.

Speaker’s notes:
Clarification is a critical step to feedback. For the feedback exchange to be effective, it’s necessary to ensure that all parties clearly understand each other.

When you are giving feedback, take time to confirm that the person understood what you shared with them.
Ask the person to repeat their understanding of the feedback back to you. This can be done by simply saying: “I want to make sure that we leave this conversation with the same understanding – can you tell me your understanding of our conversation and what the next steps are?” Listen to what they share back and offer clarification based on what they say, confirming the things they repeat back correctly and providing further direction on the things they repeat back incorrectly.

Ask questions if there are variances in both parties’ perspectives and understanding of the message behind the feedback. Summarize your understanding of their response so that they know you understand how they are feeling.

Clarification does not always have to happen in the moment of the conversation – if it’s not appropriate or emotions are high, circle back with the person at a later time. This can even be done through email. It is important to ensure that they understood the intent of the feedback correctly and that you understood their point of view. It can be helpful to frame this in a way that suggests you wish to clarify for your sake, rather than for theirs. This framing can help soften the conversation and make them more open and willing to accept the feedback.

Communicate the message: Be prepared for all responses

Reactions

  • Be open to accepting feedback in return.
  • Observe body language
  • Be prepared for an emotional response and to listen to their point of view.
  • Allow the receiver time to process and revisit the conversation later, if necessary.

Speaker’s Notes:
Just like Newton’s third law of physics: any action will have a reaction – but when it comes to feedback that reaction may be positive, negative, or neutral.

When giving feedback, don’t be alarmed or surprised if the individual uses this moment to share with you. Being open to accepting feedback in return will lead to people receiving your feedback more openly.

Be prepared for the person to react or respond in a way that may be driven by emotion. Watch for a change in body language. This includes any shift in eye contact, posture, tone of voice, and gesturing. Also, take into account any external factors that may impact how they respond. Show support and empathy.

Allow them the time to step away and process the information if they aren’t comfortable continuing in the discussion at that time. For example, if someone is getting upset or visibly emotional, ask them: “Would you like to resume this conversation at a later time?” This will give them a chance to collect their thoughts and keep the situation from escalating.

If you have the feeling that the feedback exchange is not going well – they are not agreeing with what you are saying or appear to be getting upset – but they still wish to continue the conversation, address it and invite them to talk. For example say: “I’m getting the feeling you’re disagreeing with what I’m saying. Can you share with me what you’re thinking?”

Then ask questions to find out why they have a different understanding of the situation. Acknowledge their position and paraphrase back your understanding of their point of view. Also, try to break tension by acknowledging that it’s hard to receive negative feedback, but be careful not use a patronizing tone of voice. For example, say: “You know, Janet, I can understand why you’re upset, given that you don’t agree with my feedback. To be honest, I’d be just as frustrated as you are, if I was in your situation…” (Lee). Sometimes, just knowing that you can understand and relate to their point of view can help them feel that they are being heard and move past that initial emotional response.

If they continue to disagree with you, focus the conversation on outcomes rather than perceptions of the situation. Depending on the situation, if you cannot reach a common understanding with the individual, you also can decide to postpone it. Simply say: “I can see that you are very upset with this feedback right now. I want to be able to have a conversation with you about what we can do to move forward, but I don’t think we can do that right now. So I’m going to give you time to process this and we’ll schedule some time to pick up this conversation again.”

And as a last resort, you may need to gently remind them that in your role you are accountable to the employer/organization for setting standards and deciding whether they are being met. This does not mean being preachy or overly forceful; this does not mean you need to remind them who the boss is. Instead, focus on the facts – even if you have different perceptions around the situation, the facts should clearly indicate that an issue exists that needs to be addressed. You can agree to disagree, but they still need to meet your expectations.

For example: “Charlie, I hear you that you disagree with my assessment of how you handle customer complaints. However, as you know, part of my responsibility is to evaluate each team member’s performance to the best of my ability … just as you would be required to do with me if you were my supervisor. So, while I know it’s a drag to feel like you’re being evaluated inaccurately, this is where I stand after giving it a lot of thought and taking into consideration what you’ve said. While we can agree to disagree in terms of perception, whether you think I’m off base or not, I still need you to meet the performance expectations I outlined…” (Lee).

What’s important after a difficult feedback conversation is to not let that sour your relationship or the trust you have built with them. In these situations it’s important to keep a feedback dialogue going. Find time to give the individual positive feedback that is not coupled with the delivery of constructive feedback. If appropriate, ask for them to provide you with feedback on something that effects the team. Let them know you value them as an employee. If you see them making improvements on the subject of the difficult feedback, don’t hold back in acknowledging it.

Keep channels open: Follow up after the feedback interaction

Follow-up

  • Continue the conversation.
  • Set an action plan, if necessary.
  • Be available to offer further clarification and support.

Speaker’s Notes:
The goal of an effective feedback environment is for all employees to be comfortable and encouraged to engage in feedback dialogue. Following up on feedback actions will increase the frequency of feedback exchanges and also help to create an environment where feedback occurs more naturally and continuously.

When giving feedback, determine when it is an appropriate time to pick up the conversation again.
Agree upon a time to continue the conversation, provide support for the employee by helping them put together an action plan for moving forward, and acknowledge and show gratitude for any steps they have already taken or successes they have achieved as a result of the feedback. Make yourself available to them for further clarification or questions.

Remember that feedback is everywhere and in every conversation. Continuing the feedback conversation doesn’t have to mean continuing to discuss a situation you’ve already addressed; rather, it’s about continuing to give feedback to the individual, both constructive and positive in nature.

Apply the six components of feedback when you receive feedback from others

  • Timing – Schedule feedback at a time that is mutually convenient
  • Intention – Seek to understand the intention behind the feedback.
  • Method – Receive feedback in a method that is comfortable for you.
  • Clarification – Ensure you understand what is being shared with you.
  • Reactions – Remain open to the feedback; view it as a gift of data.
  • Follow-up – Show gratitude and take ownership of any negative reactions.

Speaker’s Notes:
Now, let’s talk about receiving feedback. When receiving feedback, basically you need to put all the skills and techniques for giving feedback, which we just talked about, to work, but from the other side of the conversation.

This means that, just as you ask permission to give feedback to others, you also have the ability to control when you receive feedback. If the timing isn’t appropriate for you, you have the right to decline the offer of feedback in the moment. But be sure to schedule a time for the feedback to be given that is mutually convenient. Never just decline the feedback without setting a time to have the conversation in the near future. This is a sure-fire way to hinder your professional relationships and decrease the level of trust that currently exists.

When it comes to intention, it’s your role to seek to understand the person’s intention behind sharing feedback with you. Even if the person who is trying to give you feedback isn’t doing so in a skilled manner, you can rely on your skills to dig deeper into the conversation. So, if their intent is unclear, be direct and ask questions to help you understand.

Receive feedback in a method that is comfortable for you and your colleagues. Share with the people you work closely with your preferred method of receiving feedback and also ask how they prefer to receive feedback. When you understand the preferences of your colleagues, and they understand yours, you are able to communicate more effectively.

If you’ve been given time before a feedback conversation, prepare for the conversation by doing a self-assessment of your behaviors or performance on the topic you are receiving feedback on. Be honest with yourself.

While in the conversation, repeat back what they are saying or ask clarifying questions to confirm you comprehend their intended message. This may occur in the moment or after the fact. It is less important to agree with the feedback than it is to be open to it and show that you understand what is being expressed to you.

Be mindful of your reaction. Your goal is to remain open to the feedback. Learning to accept constructive feedback (without reacting defensively) can leave a lasting or significant positive impression. Sometimes feedback is delivered skillfully and other times it isn’t. You don’t have control over the feedback, but you do have control over your reaction to it.

It can help to think of it as a gift of data that you either appreciate or choose not to use. Whether it is positive or negative, all feedback should be viewed as information. It’s important to work on your ability to manage yourself during these situations.

After you have been given feedback, follow up to show gratitude for the feedback. Do this by acknowledging the information that has been shared with you. Whether you intend or are able to act on it or not, a “thank you” will let the giver know that you appreciate their sharing feedback with you.

Also, if you reacted to the feedback in a negative manner, there is value in following up. Take ownership of your behavior or reaction, apologize if necessary, and share what you plan to do differently next time.

It is important to make the time to receive feedback regularly. It should be a priority for the success of your team as well as your personal development and performance. The way you, as a manager, receive feedback and your openness to it will set the tone for the team.

When asking for feedback, remember the following

Asking for feedback:

  • Be specific in your request.
  • Be open to receiving whatever feedback they are sharing with you.
  • Build comfort in others to give feedback.
  • Show appreciation for the feedback given.

Speaker’s Notes:
Let’s spend a little time discussing the action of asking for feedback from your peers, manager, and direct reports.

If asking for feedback is a new undertaking for you, it can help to create a process around it until it becomes second nature to seek out feedback from others. This could mean scheduling time to ask for feedback in your regular status meetings.

Similarly, if asking for feedback is a new process for your colleagues, allow them time to prepare by giving them advance notice that you are interested in their feedback. They may want to think through their messaging and be thoughtful about their language.

Just as when giving and receiving feedback, intention matters here. Before you go seeking out someone’s feedback, pause and reflect – why are you asking for it? Be specific about what you want feedback on.

Always be genuine in your request. If you are asking for feedback, you must be open to receiving it, whatever it may be. It can be helpful to frame your request for feedback in terms of how you can improve.

If the person you are speaking with seems unsure, confused, or anxious to give you feedback, provide further clarification on your intent for asking. Try to understand what is making them uncomfortable and guide them through the process.

Be prepared for resistance or hesitation, especially among direct reports. This is your opportunity to help make them comfortable sharing feedback with you. It is important to create a feeling of safety so they feel open to sharing with you.

Also, be sure to show appreciation for the feedback you requested. Asking for feedback and failing to respond graciously will limit the person’s willingness to continue providing feedback.

Support the feedback environment by acting on the feedback you’ve received

Acting on feedback:

  • Take action as soon as possible.
  • Make sure you are clear about why you are acting on the feedback and what you hope to achieve.
  • Check in with the person who gave you the feedback.
  • If you are unable to or decide not to take action, communicate this and explain why.

Speaker’s Notes:
And lastly, let’s discuss acting on feedback you’ve received. This involves circling back with the individual who gave you feedback, regardless of whether or not you decide to implement the feedback. Keeping the conversation going and demonstrating that you’ve appreciated their feedback and have given it serious consideration sends a message to them that feedback is valued and important.

In situations where taking action is necessary, do so as soon as possible. For example, if the feedback was related to a repetitive or cyclical task, ensure that you act on it prior to repeating the task again.

When acting on feedback, make sure it is clear to you why you’re acting on the feedback provided and what you hope to achieve. Also, depending on the source of the feedback, it is advisable to check in with your manager prior to making changes to your behaviors.

Check in with the person who gave you the feedback and share the actions or solutions you have determined necessary. This will help to ensure your plan of action is in line with the person’s expectations and will show your commitment and willingness to improve. Continue to be open to hearing their response and any additional feedback they may have.

Follow-up is also very important after you have taken action on feedback to ensure you have adequately addressed the issue. Once you have taken action, set a time to follow up and discuss the outcome. Share successes, challenges, and learnings. Determine whether anything further needs to happen.

In a situation where you are not able to act on the feedback, or have decided not to act on it, ensure this intention is made known. Do not give the impression that you will be acting on feedback if you are not doing so. Be clear about why you are not able to act on the feedback and shift the conversation to what other specific actions, if any, you can take. Having this conversation sends the message that the feedback is heard, considered, and valued and will make it more likely for the individual to be open to providing you with feedback in the future.

Activity

Roleplay feedback actions and directions

A diagram of 'Feedback Actions' beside a list of 'Feedback Directions'. In a circle around 'Feedback Actions' are 'Give', 'Ask', 'Receive', and 'Act'. Listed directions are 'Upward', 'Downward', 'Peer to Peer', and 'Organizational'.

Instructions:

  • Now that we’ve covered the different feedback actions, as well as the different feedback directions, let’s get some practice combining all this information with a role-play activity.
  • In pairs, you will participate in [insert number of role plays selected] role plays. The role play has two different roles; discuss who will play which role before seeing the scenarios. Then, make sure you have the instructions for your role.
  • Take two minutes to prepare, then you can begin the role play. I will let you know when eight minutes are over, then you can provide feedback on how the session went for five minutes with your partner.
  • If two role plays are selected, carry it out using the same structure.

Debrief:

  • You may now discuss the debriefing questions you selected from the document Role Plays: Foster Effective Feedback in the Workplace.

Activity

Strategies to address challenges to sharing feedback

Feedback Direction Strategies

  • Upward
  • Downward
  • Peer to Peer
  • Organizational

Instructions:

  1. Place new flip charts in the four corners of the room. Title each flip chart with the word “Strategies” and one of the feedback directions:
  2. Upward
  3. Downward
  4. Peer to peer
  5. Organizational
  6. Remember the challenges you wrote down earlier. It is time to think about what we can do about them.
  7. We will follow the same format. Each group will stop by the four stations and add their thoughts to the flip charts. This time, however, I want you to think about strategies and approaches you can take to encourage feedback in each of the four directions.
  8. After three minutes ask participants to move to the next station/flip chart in a clockwise direction.
  9. Each group should build on the notes written down by the previous group(s) and add any new thoughts.
  10. After all groups have stopped by all stations, ask participants to return to their seats and start debriefing.
  11. Read through the notes and make sure there is common understanding of the points written.

Overcome feedback challenges

Upward Feedback

  • Discuss the best ways for you and your manager to engage in feedback actions.
  • Frame feedback in terms of how it will help the manager.
  • Participate in a 360 evaluation of your manager.

Downward Feedback

  • Ask for feedback and act on or acknowledge it.
  • Ask the employee how they want to receive or ask for feedback.
  • Do not wait until the performance review.
  • Don’t let your position dominate your message.

Speaker’s Notes:

Mitigate some of the challenges of giving upward feedback by using the following tactics:

  • Speak with your manager about how the two of you would like to share feedback with each other.
    • Be specific about the approach you prefer and ask your manager about their preference as well.
    • This will help set expectations early on so when the time for feedback comes, there are no surprises about how it is given, asked for, received, or acted on.
    • Where time permits, speak with your manager and book in a reoccurring time more frequent than the performance appraisal to receive feedback. These meetings do not have to be long and can still have a big impact in terms of redirecting or reinforcing behaviors.
  • Always frame feedback in terms of how it will help the manager.
    • Usually the higher up the manager is, the less time they have. If your feedback will enable them to save time or to reach more people in the same amount of time, they will be interested. For example, “I think it will help everyone on the team work better if I can speak with you for a few minutes.”
    • In this situation, being as concise as possible will also allow people to be more receptive to receiving and acting on the information that you’ve shared.

To help overcome some of the challenges of downward feedback, use the following strategies:

  • Ask for feedback; role modeling this will encourage the employees receiving feedback to ask for feedback themselves, fostering the cycle of giving, asking for, receiving, and acting on feedback. It will also make you a better leader.
  • Ask the employee how they want to receive or ask for feedback. Breaking the ice this way will make them feel less intimidated in engaging in feedback actions with you.
  • Act on feedback where possible. Failure to act discourages future sharing of feedback from subordinates. At the very least, acknowledge the feedback that you receive, and once you know that you cannot act on it, ensure your employee understands why.
  • Give feedback often and focus on the positive – if the only time you ask to speak with your direct reports is to share opportunities for improvement, they will become resistant to feedback and will be reluctant to engage in that dialogue.
  • Be as enthusiastic about negative feedback as you are about positive.
  • If giving feedback to your employee, understand that exchanging feedback with them will make you better by helping them get better and vice versa.
  • Build sharing feedback from subordinates into each other’s calendars.
  • Don’t let your position dominate your message. Intimidation can put individuals off from exchanging feedback with you in the future.
  • Participate in 360-degree feedback evaluations for your manager.
    • Use the evaluation as your opportunity to share feedback that will help your manager manage you better and improve their quality of work and also let them know what they are doing great so they can continue on with it.

Question to group: What behavior could your direct manager exhibit that would make you feel more comfortable sharing feedback with them? Discuss.

Overcome feedback challenges

Peer-to-Peer Feedback

  • Check what the feedback boundaries are.
  • Talk with your peers about how they prefer to manage feedback actions with you.
  • Ensure that the feedback comes from a place of wanting to be a strong team or project group.

Organizational Feedback

  • Share feedback through the channels that are available.
  • Talk with your manager or the HR team for organization-related feedback.
  • Understand what is appropriate to share with the organization.

Speaker’s Notes:

The following approaches can help you overcome challenges with giving peer-to-peer feedback.

  • Ask the employee and their manager whether they are comfortable with you sharing feedback with them. This will help establish the feedback boundaries and perhaps help create a feedback relationship that had not existed before.
    • Be sure to avoid giving feedback that may be more appropriate for a manager to give so that you do not overstep the boundaries that have been set and do not make the employee feel like you are lording over them.
  • Talk with your coworkers about how they prefer to receive feedback, give feedback, and ask for it so that you are ready to engage in meaningful feedback conversations in a welcomed manner.
  • Ensure that the feedback comes from a place of wanting to be a strong team or project group.
    • If they are in a similar role and job as you, share your feedback from a place of understanding or your own experience.
    • Knowing that you perform similar tasks can make the feedback seem more relatable. Avoid a holier-than-thou attitude to ensure that feedback behaviors can occur in the future.

Approach organizational feedback challenges with the following strategies:

  • Share feedback through the channels that are available.
  • Talk with your manager or the HR team for organization-related feedback.
  • Understand what is appropriate to share with the organization and what is better shared with your manager. Diplomacy is key.

Activity

Make a personal commitment

  • Write down three feedback goals.
  • Post your goals in a visible place.
  • Make a personal commitment.
  • Elicit support from your manager.
  • Offer support to your manager.

Speaker’s Notes:

Let’s take a few moments to make a personal commitment to developing our feedback skills. You are encouraged to share and discuss them with your managers, peers, or teams.

  • Reflect back on today’s session and identify three actions or behaviors that will enable you to further develop your feedback skills.
  • Write your goals down in your Participant Handbook and post them at your workstation.
  • Make a personal commitment to work toward the goals you have set for yourself. Think through how you plan to achieve your goals.
  • Share your goals with your manager and ask for their support in working toward them.
  • Also, take the opportunity to ask how you can support your manager with their feedback goals.

Sustain the feedback training with these follow-up tasks

  1. Model the behaviors
    • Champion the initiative.
    • Build feedback practices into standard processes.
  2. 3-month follow-up
    • Hold informal follow-up discussions with your direct reports.
    • Work through barriers and celebrate successes
  3. 6-12-month follow-up
    • Encourage your team to complete the anonymous survey.
    • Ask for an honest reflection on any changes in feedback practices.
  4. Revisit the training
    • Review your participant handbook.
    • Regularly touch base with your team and provide support.

Speaker’s Notes:
As champions of this initiative, managers will play an important part in the training follow-up. Follow-up is paramount to ensure long-term sustainability of a feedback environment and to identify any challenges that need to be addressed.

Model the Behavior:

  • Champion the initiative by demonstrating effective feedback practices.
  • Remember to ask for feedback and be open to receiving it.
  • Build feedback practices into standard processes within your team.

Three-Month Follow-Up:

  • Conduct informal follow-up discussions with your direct reports three months following training.
  • Work through barriers and celebrate successes.

6-12-Month Follow-Up:

  • Encourage your team to complete the anonymous survey by the deadline.
  • Remind them to be honest and to really reflect on any changes in feedback practices they’ve experienced since the training sessions.

Revisit:

  • Use your Participant Handbook to refresh yourself on the content of today’s training.
  • Regularly touch base with your team to determine whether they require any additional support.

Wrap-up

  1. Recognize the importance of an effective feedback environment.
  2. Identify the elements of organizational culture that are required for an effective feedback environment.
  3. Build the skills to engage in effective feedback practices.
  4. Action plan to improve feedback practices on your team and in the organization.

Speaker’s Notes:
That brings us to the end of our training today. Let’s highlight the key takeaways. They are:

  • Effective feedback positively impacts many critical functions within the organization. There are both organizational and personal benefits to creating an effective feedback environment, including increased engagement, innovation, and career advancement.
  • The presence of trust, having a growth mindset, professional communication, and role modeling by leadership are all critical to fostering an effective feedback environment.
  • There are four distinct actions and directions associated with effective feedback practices.
  • The four feedback actions (giving, asking, receiving, and acting) impact each of the four feedback directions (upward, downward, peer to peer, and organizational) in slightly different ways. All of the actions are equally important in ensuring that feedback is exchanged in a respectful, productive, and appropriate way.
  • The six key components that should be taken into consideration within each of the four feedback actions are timing, intention, method, clarification, reaction and response, and follow-up.
  • Managers have additional accountabilities in terms of fostering an effective feedback environment. They are expected to encourage employees to improve their feedback skills and engage in feedback actions, create a safe environment for their team to share feedback, and ingrain feedback practices into everyday processes.
  • Managers are also expected to ask for feedback to gather insight into their own performance and their ability to effectively support and lead their team.
  • Employee resistance is a significant barrier to the sustainability of an effective feedback environment, which managers can address by modeling the behavior, creating norms, building trust, revisiting training material, monitoring progress, showing appreciation, and giving positive reinforcement for effective feedback.

FOSTER EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK IN THE WORKPLACE

Training session knowledge check

Speaker’s Notes:

Before we wrap up, please take ten minutes to complete this Knowledge Check on the training content and return it to me when you are finished. You aren’t required to include your name on your quiz paper.

Please fill out your training evaluation forms before you leave.

Thank you!

Speaker’s Notes:

  • That concludes today’s session.
  • Before you leave, please take the time to fill out these training evaluation forms and return them to me.

Additional Resources

Blueprint: Modernize Performance Management

Ditching the annual performance review for agile practices won’t necessarily solve performance management problems.

Train managers to provide employees with high-quality feedback and coaching to improve all other aspects of performance management.

Training Deck: Train Managers to Coach Employees for High Performance and Development

Use McLean & Company’s behavior-focused coaching model to train managers to adopt the key behaviors required to coach.

Develop and implement post-training activities to ensure that managers sustain and apply their learning on the job.

Training Deck: Train Managers to Master Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations can be hard to approach as they cover workplace conflicts and topics such as delivering bad news, apologizing, asking for something, and discussing sensitive subjects. Decrease managers’ avoidance of difficult conversations and get them to stop freezing and giving in when it comes time to face them.

Works Cited

Batista, Ed. “Building a Feedback-Rich Culture.” Harvard Business Review, 24 Dec. 2013. Web.

–-. “Building a Feedback-Rich Culture from the Middle”. Ed Batista, 7 April 2015. Accessed May 2015.

Fischer, Bruce D. and Matthew Rohde. "Feedback and Follow-Through: Cornerstones of Innovation." American Journal of Management, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 39-45.

Goodman, Nadia. “How to Foster a Feedback-Friendly Company.” Entrepreneur. 18 Oct. 2012. Web.

“How to Create a Feedback-Friendly Culture on Your Team.” The Management Center, n.d. Web.

“How to Create an Effective Feedback Culture”. Explorance. 21 Feb. 2013. Accessed April 2015.

Lee, David. "When Constructive Feedback Goes Wrong: What to Do When The Listener Disagrees or Gets Upset." HumanNature@Work, 28 Jan. 2014. Web.

Levy, Dan. “How to Build a Culture That Embraces Feedback”. Inc. Magazine, March 2014. Accessed May 2015.

Meister, Jeanne. The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today. Harper Business, 2015.

Quinn, R. E., & Rohrbaugh, J. “A spatial model of effectiveness criteria: Towards a competing values approach to organizational analysis.” Management Science, vol. 29, no. 3, 1983, pp. 363–377.

Richards, Leigh. “Why Is Employee Empowerment a Common Cornerstone of Organizational Development & Change Programs?” Houston Chronicle, n.d. Accessed May 2015.

Romero, Joseluis. “Yes – you can build a feedback culture”. Skills 2 Lead, 5 Aug. 2014. Accessed May 2015.

Scott, Dow, Tom McMullen, and Mark Royal. “Retention of Key Talent and the Role of Rewards.” WorldatWork, June 2012. Accessed May 2015.

Solomon, D. “Effective Feedback – Part 1: Timing and Receiving.” Sun & Moon Developing People, 4 Dec. 2017. Web.

Sullivan, Dr. John. “Facebook’s Difference: A Unique Approach For Managing Employees.” TLNT, 25 Sept. 2013. Accessed May 2015.

“The Ultimate Guide To Building Feedback Into Your Company.” Leapsome, n.d. Web.

Verma, Prachi. “Five ways to foster a culture of feedback”. The Economic Times. 21 Oct. 2014. Web.

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  • Call #1 - Train employees to effectively give, ask for, receive, and act on feedback.

Contributors

  • Chris Chin, Managing Director, Curious Learning Ltd.
  • Dr. Irwin Jankovic, PhD, Strategic Program Manager, Human Resources Group
  • Diane Magers, CCXP, Customer Experience Executive, AT&T
  • Christopher D. Lee, Author, Performance Conversations, Associate Vice Chancellor for HR Services, Virginia Community College System
  • Ben Olds, Organizational Development/Human Resources, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals
  • Judy Ringer, Author, Unlikely Teachers Finding the Hidden Gifts, and Founder, Power & Presence Training
  • Donna Forde, Director Program Manager, Leadership Development, Telecommunications Industry
  • Doug Lawrence, Certified Mentor Practitioner, President, Talent C- People Services Inc. Communications Group
  • Ken Boese, Employee Relations, Monteferro America
  • Robert Wolfe, Core Faculty, Experience Designer, THNK, The School of Creative Leadership
  • Alan Ovson, Speaker, Facilitator, Coach, Consultant, Founder of Ovson
  • 3 Anonymous Contributors