• Steve Huffman

Giving Critical Feedback: A Challenge

I think we are losing the ability to give and receive critical feedback. I know that is an over-generalization, but with the participation trophy society that we live in, it is becoming more and more challenging for leaders to impart wisdom and advice without being discounted as being overly critical.

When I was growing up I participated in band program and was somewhat musically inclined. Throughout my teenage years I received A LOT of feedback. When I inquire with others who participated in sports activities or other extra curricular activities it is a similar story – feedback, even critical feedback, was important to improve. Throughout my entire working career in the marketplace feedback was exceedingly important to understand how I could improve.

The question was recently asked to me, how do leaders today give feedback without being perceived as negative or overly critical?

As I think through this challenge today here are some tips to consider:

  1. There should be an emotional bank account to dip from – If you are only giving feedback without a relationship you can easily be discounted as always being negative.

  2. Give feedback in a timely manner – Memories fade quicker than you think. Giving feedback on something a few weeks ago won’t be as effective as giving feedback on something that happened yesterday.

  3. Share feedback out of a foundation of improvement – Giving feedback should be drafted out of a desire to improve. Feedback should never be a means to an end, rather a suggestion to help a person be even better than they are now.

  4. Don’t over compliment to bookend critical feedback – Whenever you need to share feedback for improvement don’t fall into the trap of always giving praise before and after the criticism. You will end up softening the feedback that should be given and could miss the core message you are trying to impart. Give praise when praise is due, but don’t overpraise just to give criticism.

  5. Go beyond the critical – Don’t just share that “Your performance was terrible”, share what they could have done differently to make it better and be specific!

  6. Follow-up – This is a frequently missed tip! Follow-up after the feedback in a few days to see if the individual understood or if there are any questions or if they disagree. Many times the time for them to process your feedback generates an even healthier discussion a few days later.

In a follow-up post I will share a few tips on how to receive feedback.