The Art of Giving Feedback

By Kevin James ~ HRBP at CRDB Bank on 04 May 2020Career Development


Generally people do have a negative conception of the term feedback, I often hear “Feedback is criticism of what you’re doing wrong, and you’re busy driving to get to a successful outcome for the company and for yourself.” Very few who feel safe in their own skin and confident actually welcome feedback.


Think of the last time you received feedback. Did it inspire you? Did it motivate you to be a better person? Did it arouse your curiosity to learn more?


The type of feedback and how it is communicated often has an impact on whether you become a high performer or remain as a non-starter.


To be frank, this is probably one of the least pleasurable responsibility a leader to have to do, I have seen how leaders cringe when they are told to give feedback, especially constructive feedback. Some even go the extra mile to find ways to avoid the conversation or rather leave it to HR to mediate.


In my opinion, when you’re giving feedback, it is advisable to give the headline and let the person know. For instance you could say something like: “I have some observations to share about the talk you just gave; and I want to checkin to see if this is a good time to talk about it.”


Notice I stated, “I have some observations to share.” I did not say, “I have some feedback to share,” because that incites or has the possibility of eliciting criticism. Once you’ve gotten their agreement that it’s okay, then you can then share what you observed. And remember don’t be nice about your feedback but be helpful.


Lets go deeper, for instance you may continue to say “when you were doing the question-and-answer section, I noticed that you began to give the answer before the person finished asking the question.” Notice that I did not say, “When you were giving the question-and-answer section, you interrupted the person that was speaking before they finished.”


The difference between the two statements above is that one was an actual replay of what happened and the other was a judgement (interrupted).


Now you may proceed to share on the impact of the above scenario i.e. “My apprehension is, is that the person didn’t feel like you really heard the question.” And then ask for their insight. I have come to understand that people are lot freer when they feel they are not being judged hence much more easier to listen to constructive feedback.


Throughout my experience very few people manage to give  straightforward feedback, most people tend to beat around the bush and package the feedback with tie and ribbon. As I said, it takes time and practice but anyone can master it.   


Therefore, when I normally give feedback, I also like to acknowledge a  persons characteristics, their strengths along with areas that he or she could improve. The bottleneck comes when the talk involves an employee leaving the business. I can start with, “you are a human being with talent and poise. This job isn’t a good match with what you are doing, we have work on that it is not working out. I want to get you into a place where you will excel, be happier and more effective, so how can I help?"


That level of feedback is usually well received as it opens up a dialogue of communication. 


Worry not though, this mastery takes time; even years of practice, no one solution fits all and each to their own, my advice is know your environment, know you are dealing with and above all be humble, honest with yourself to everything you do and be open minded.


I believe feedback is a crucial part of personal development; it helps you to grow and improve your performance if one takes it positively. Take it as a challenge: Michael Jordan didn’t get to be the greatest player on the planet without feedback and the list goes on and on.

It's time we embrace feedback as we embrace change and see it as an opportunity for growth.


By Kevin James ~ HRBP at CRDB Bank