It is really important as a leader to give timely and relevant feedback to your staff and students. It can make a difference not only to the quality of their work going forward but also to their levels of job satisfaction.
There are generally two kinds of feedback. The first is feedback on things that have gone well. For most, this is the easiest kind of feedback to give but it is very important. Those with a feeling preference can have a tendency to give this out more readily than those with a thinking preference. This is partly because the former tend to need more of this themselves. People with a feeling preference need to feel that their individual contribution has been recognised and appreciated so positive feedback and praise is really important to them. It is also important to those with a thinking preference but too much can be grating for these types and they will be especially frustrated for being praised if they know they haven’t done something well. Their orientation is more focused on the task and whether this has been done well rather than needing appreciation for their contribution so it is best to stick to the elements of the task with these types.
The second kind of feedback is feedback on things that haven’t gone well or need improvement. This is more difficult to give for both types. Those with a feeling preference will particularly worry about hurting the other person’s feelings. Those with a thinking preference may worry that their feedback will come across too harshly. Some people talk about using a ‘feedback sandwich’ with the less positive feedback forming the filling between two pieces of positive feedback. A lot of people find this model annoying because the positive feedback can sound false. The important thing, regardless of the personalities involved, is to focus on the task and on improving it for the next time, rather than allocating blame or spending too much time dwelling on what went wrong. It can even be helpful to say that is what you are going to do because it can be reassuring to the person receiving the feedback, allowing them to concentrate on what you are telling them. Make sure you demonstrate that you recognise and appreciate the effort or time that the person has put into the job.
Here are some general rules for giving constructive feedback:
- Make sure the feedback is timely – if you wait, it may become less of a priority to you or may seem less relevant to them.
- Try to be objective and specific without allowing your emotions show. Don’t exaggerate or extrapolate!
- Focus on improvement and give reasons for the need to improve.
- Always own the feedback, even if you have to address something where another team member has raised a problem. Never put the responsibility for the feedback on someone else.
Lastly, do make sure that you give feedback regularly so that it isn’t made into a big deal when something goes wrong. If you also make sure that you are willing to take feedback yourself, these two things will help to engender a culture in your team of respect, allowing for difference of opinion and any initial signs of conflict can be dealt with more effectively.