Organizations run on feedback. Consumers give feedback to marketers, product designers, salespeople and customer service reps. Managers deliver feedback to workers, and workers offer feedback to business leaders.
Yet, none of that feedback means anything unless the feedback is constructive.
Constructive feedback consists of comments, advice and suggestions that are applicable and actionable. In business, constructive feedback is essential to improving performance at every level — so how do business leaders ensure that the feedback running their organization is constructive?
What Constructive Feedback Looks Like
The goal of constructive feedback is to empower those receiving feedback to help them overcome whatever issue is plaguing them. Constructive feedback can take many forms, such as comments, advice, suggestions, ideas; as long as the feedback helps an individual perform better while maintaining high morale and engagement to their work, it is effectively constructive.
Constructive feedback can be issued in forms of both praise and criticism. When praise comes as constructive feedback, it involves acknowledging effort, highlighting strengths and establishing one’s appreciation for another’s behavior. In contrast, when using constructive feedback to deliver criticism, one must avoid any attacks on an individual’s personal traits and focus on offering advice and tools for overcoming challenges and rising above weaknesses. Criticism tends to be more difficult for individuals to convey constructively, but considering the benefits of effective feedback — better behavior, faster processes, fewer weaknesses, new insight and perspectives — business leaders should learn constructive criticism.
To help business leaders and others understand different versions of constructive feedback, here are a few examples of constructive praise, constructive criticism and failed constructive feedback:
Feedback About Leadership Ability
- Praise: I have noticed you take control of the team on several occasions, and I am impressed by your people skills and leadership talent.
- Criticism: I appreciate the effort you contribute to our projects. I have noticed that you do not accept opportunities to lead the team, and I am interested to see you take on a challenge. Is there anything I can do to support you in this?
- Failure: If you are not taking advantage of leadership opportunities, why are you bothering to be part of this team?
Feedback About Creativity
- Praise: You frequently offer creative solutions that have saved the team and company time and money. Your ability to be innovative will take you far in this career.
- Criticism: You seem to be getting stuck on certain tasks lately. If you need to be more creative with your solutions, you have my support.
- Failure: If you can’t find a way to make the established processes work for you, you probably are not fit for this role.
Feedback About Punctuality
- Praise: Thank you for always being in the office on time. Your early morning availability is critical to solving challenges early in the day.
- Criticism: I noticed you have been clocking in later this week, which means you are missing the morning meetings. I find these meetings vital to identifying issues in the project, and I appreciate your insight. Is there any way I can help you get to the office on time?
- Failure: I will take disciplinary action if you come to work late one more time, regardless of your reason.
How Business Leaders Deliver Constructive Feedback
Whether business leaders are developing better performance management systems or simply looking for better ways to communicate with their staff, constructive feedback is an invaluable skill. Fortunately, it is not difficult to adopt a constructive style of feedback delivery; the following tips can help any leader boost the effectiveness of their feedback today:
- Focus on the issue. Constructive feedback never attacks an individual’s character.
- Be sincere. A genuine desire to help an individual improve will help make feedback more constructive.
- Be specific. Leaders should tackle a single issue at a time and use specific examples and advice.
- Listen. Feedback is a two-way street. Recipients should be given the opportunity to respond to feedback, and leaders need to be open to receiving feedback about their feedback.
- Summarize. At the end of the meeting, a brief summary will help everyone remember how they should proceed.
Feedback is data that individuals and organizations alike require to improve and succeed. Leaders who learn how to deliver constructive feedback can be certain that their teams will be better prepared to tackle any and every challenge.